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Sanofi adds to cancer pipeline with Exelixis deal

Published on 28/05/09 at 11:47am

Sanofi-Aventis has signed a deal with oncology-focused biotech Exelixis to co-develop two new cancer treatments.

The alliance will see Sanofi gain global licenses for two molecules in phase I development, and work with Exelixis in the discovery of new treatments for the management of solid tumours.

Sanofi gains an exclusive worldwide license to XL147, an oral phosphoinositide-3 kinase (PI3K) inhibitor, and XL765, an oral dual inhibitor of PI3K and mTOR (mammalian target of rapamycin).

The activation of the PI3K pathway is a frequent event in human tumours, promoting cell proliferation and cell survival, as well as resistance to chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Therapies that therefore impact the PI3K pathway, alone or in combination, are considered to have a high therapeutic potential.

Marc Cluzel, senior vice-president of R&D, said Sanofi-Aventis was excited about integrating the new therapies into its portfolio.

He added: "We look forward to combining our efforts with Exelixis to develop innovative drugs in the best interest of patients suffering from cancers. This alliance is aligned with our strategy to create value through strategic partnerships that deliver new therapeutic options."

The move is the latest in a series of developments at the French drugmaker, which underwent a strategic review in February by new leader Chris Viehbacher.

The chief executive made clear that partnerships were critical as the company lacks sufficient pipeline products to compensate when products like Plavix go off-patent in 2012.

In diversifying its portfolio, Sanofi is looking to span small molecules and biologicals, vaccines, generics, and over the counter products.  

Earlier this month it announced a 200 million euro investment in converting one of its manufacturing sites near Paris into a biotechnology facility, ready to start producing antibody-based drugs in 2012. It also signed an early-stage research deal with biotech Kyowa Hakko Kirin to receive rights to its pre-clinical stage inflammation molecule.

The new deal marks its continued effort to diversify into biotech and cancer therapies.

Exelixis and Sanofi also agreed an exclusive partnership for the discovery of other inhibitors of PI3K for the management of solid tumours.

Exelixis will receive $140 million in upfront fees and research funding of $21 million over three years. It could also receive milestone payments of more than $1 billion as well as royalties on sales.



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