Ablynx Seals Nanobody R&D Deal Worth $2.8 Billion With Drug Giant Sanofi

Ablynx Seals Nanobody R&D Deal Worth $2.8 Billion With Drug Giant Sanofi July 20, 2017
By Alex Keown, BioSpace.com Breaking News Staff

GHENT, Belgium –Less than one year after AbbVie walked away from a nanobody development deal with Belgium-based Ablynx , French pharma giant Sanofi swooped in with a collaborative agreement valued at up to $2.8 billion.

This morning, Ablynx announced the lucrative deal focused on nanobody-based therapeutics. But the deal will have to progress quite far before Ablynx sees the bulk of those funds. Under terms of the deal, the Belgium-based company will receive an upfront payment of €23 million (about $26.5 million) for licensing fees. Additionally Ablynx will receive €8 million, about $9.25 million, for research funding. The bulk of the $2.8 billion Ablynx could be eligible to receive will depend upon Sanofi’s efforts to develop and commercialize the nanobodies for the treatment of various immune-mediated inflammatory diseases.

As part of the deal Sanofi will have access to eight of Ablynx’s experimental nanobodies. Frank Nestle, Sanofi’s chief science officer and head of immunology, said the collaboration with Ablynx is part of Sanofi’s commitment to “expand our drug discovery pipeline in immunology at a time when we are launching new treatments for atopic dermatitis and rheumatoid arthritis.” He added that the company is “particularly excited” by the Ablynx nanobody technology and how they could be used to develop treatments for autoimmune disorders. However, what targets Sanofi is interested in going after with the nanobody treatments were not revealed.

"This strategically important collaboration further confirms the potential of our Nanobody platform and is a unique opportunity for us to work with a world-leader like Sanofi in the development of a new generation of therapeutics for the treatment of immune-mediated inflammatory diseases. We look forward to exploring the different Nanobody target combinations as new and novel therapeutic options for patients suffering from a range of inflammatory diseases,” Edwin Moses, chief executive officer of Ablynx said in a statement.

Shares of Ablynx are up nearly 8 percent following news of the agreement. The stock is currently trading at €12.60 on the Brussels stock exchange. Shares of Sanofi are also up this morning, trading at $47.88 as of 10:25 a.m.

Ablynx is no stranger to partnering with big pharma. The company said it has more than 45 proprietary and partnered programs in development in various therapeutic areas including inflammation, hematology, immuno-oncology, oncology and respiratory disease. Companies it has agreements with include Merck , Boehringer Ingelheim, Merck KgaA and Novo Nordisk .

Sanofi also has a strong history of partnerships, most particularly its developmental agreements with New York-based Regeneron . The two companies snagged regulatory approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for RA drug sarilumab, now dubbed Kevzara, as well as Dupixent (dupilumab) for the treatment of adults with moderate-to-severe atopic dermatitis.

In October 2016, AbbVie terminated its agreement with Ablynx to develop its anti-IL-6R Nanobody, vobarilizumab, in rheumatoid arthritis. That announcement came after the treatment failed to meet endpoints in a Phase IIb trial. Vobarilizumab targets the interleukin 6 pathway via its IL-6 receptor (IL-6R). IL-6 is a pro-inflammatory cytokine that plays a role in T-cell activation, production of acute phase proteins in response to inflammation, induction of immunoglobulin production, and stimulation of osteoclast differentiation and activation.

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