Bay Area Startup DiCE Molecules Inks Small Molecule Deal Worth Up to $2.3 Billion with Sanofi

Bay Area Startup DiCE Molecules Inks Small Molecule Deal Worth Up To $2.3 Billion with Sanofi
March 16, 2016
By Alex Keown, Breaking News Staff

SAN FRANCISCO – Bay Area-based startup DiCE Molecules struck a deal worth up to $2.3 billion with French-based Sanofi to discover up to 12 new oral therapies in favor of injectable medications, the companies jointly announced this morning.

The collaboration is part of Sanofi’s Sunrise Intuitive to invest in early stage transformative opportunities that align with Sanofi's expert development and commercialization abilities. The two companies will use DiCE’s small molecule discovery program that act by unlocking “protein-protein interfaces that have been intractable targets for orally bioavailable drugs.” The two companies will focus on 12 drug targets over a five year period. Sanofi will pay DiCE $50 million for an equity stake in DiCE and to gain access to that company’s technology, which is expected to enable monoclonal antibodies to be replaced by orally-administered medicines.

"Our platform is uniquely positioned to overcome these historical challenges and this partnership with Sanofi reinforces the potential of our technology. DiCE's self-financing business model and distinctive partnership approach will allow us to focus solely on advancing our development programs,” Judice said in a statement.

Over the course of the five-year agreement, Sanofi will provide up to $184 million in funding for research and development efforts for each drug target. Sanofi, France’s biggest drugmaker, will also pay DiCE royalties on any successfully developed medicines, the companies said. Although no specific drug targets were mentioned in the joint statement, the two companies are likely to focus on development of hard-to-treat diseases. Kevin Judice, president and chief executive officer of DiCE, said the partnership with Sanofi will allow DiCE to demonstrate the capabilities of its technology targeting protein-protein interfaces with small molecules, which he said was something many did not think was possible. DiCE’s specialty is developing oral medications that work in place of traditional large-protein based injectable antibodies used for the treatment of cancer or rheumatoid arthritis. Successful development of an oral medication would likely make the drugs highly sought after since they would not need the same low-temperature storage requirements that many injectable drugs do.

The DiCE goal is something that was intriguing to Sanofi. Kathy Bowdish, head of Sunrise Sanofi, told Bloomberg this is the first time a company has been able to build a library with billions of molecules and examine them for protein targets that can be used to target diseases.

“We hope this partnership will help deliver essential therapies against currently intractable disease targets, and help patients who otherwise have been unable to receive treatments outside of the inpatient setting. This initiative will allow our teams to combine their wealth of knowledge in drug discovery and further strengthens Sanofi's commitment to open innovation,” Bowdish said in a statement.

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