Evotec and Sanofi Collaborate on Infectious Disease R&D Initiative


Sanofi Pasteur and Germany-based Evotec AG have teamed up to form an infectious disease research and development program in Lyon, France.

The two companies announced the collaborative project on Thursday. Sanofi will license more than 10 infectious disease R&D assets, which include those in early-stage developmental programs, to Evotec and the Hamburg, Germany company will take the development lead using an open innovation platform at the French facility. As part of the deal, Sanofi will transfer about 100 of its employees to Evotec to continue research. Ultimately more than 150 scientists and researchers will be working on the project, the companies said. Sanofi did note that the licensing deal will exclude assets from its vaccine R&D unit and related projects.

In the announcement, the two companies stressed the importance of finding new treatments for infectious diseases, particularly with the increase of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Approximately 1 million people die from antibiotic-resistant infections annually. The World Health Organization noted that antibiotic resistance is one of the greatest threats to human health.

As part of the deal, Sanofi will provide Evotec a one-time cash payment of $74.2 million (€60 million). France-based Sanofi will additionally provide “significant further long-term funding” to support the developmental program. As part of the collaboration, Sanofi will retain certain option rights on the anti-infective products and will continue to be involved in infectious disease through its vaccines research and development and its global health programs.

"Sanofi has a long and established history in the fight against infectious diseases, and we remain committed to addressing global health challenges through our development efforts and vaccines", Elias Zerhouni, president of global R&D at Sanofi said in a statement. "Research in the field of anti-infectives is an area where building critical mass through partnering is particularly important. This new French-based open innovation center will benefit from the high-quality science ecosystem. Evotec is a trusted partner in drug discovery and has the ambition and capacity to become a real leader in the fight against infectious diseases."

For Evotec’s part, the company will integrate the Sanofi employees into its global drug discovery and development operations. The transferred positions will be associated with specific commitments of employment for five years and will continue to be based near Lyon, taking advantage of the location's scientific and medical ecosystems, Evotec said.

Evotec Chief Executive Officer Werner Lanthaler said since the company’s acquisition of Euprotec (UK) in 2014, Evotec has had a strategic interest and expertise in infectious diseases research. Lanthaler said the company has the ambition to grow and become “the drug discovery and development leader in this space.”

“We are pleased to be working and expanding our strategic relationship with Sanofi, which has a long history in providing novel anti-infective agents to markets globally. Finding a way to motivate more public funding and academic initiatives for the progress of novel anti-infectives on Evotec's platform will be a key success factor for this initiative,” Lanthaler said in a statement.

As Evotec transforms under the collaboration with Sanofi, the company said it will expand its existing long-term initiatives that are focused on innovation in developing treatments to fight infectious diseases affecting the developing world. The focus of drug discovery will at the outset be on new mode-of-action antimicrobials, the company said.

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