Sanofi Deepens Cancer Push by Deals with MA Startup Warp Drive Bio and Innate Pharma Worth $1.2 Billion

Sanofi Deepens Cancer Push by Deals with MA Startup Warp Drive Bio and Innate Pharma Worth $1.2 Billion
January 11, 2016
By Alex Keown, Breaking News Staff

PARIS – French drugmaker Sanofi made a large commitment to developing immune-oncology therapeutics by striking two deals worth a combined $1.2 billion with Innate Pharma and startup Warp Drive Bio, the company said in separate announcements this morning.

Sanofi said it will use Innate Pharma’s proprietary technology to develop innovative bispecific antibody formats engaging natural killer (NK) cells to kill tumor cells through the activating receptor NKp46. NKp46, which is expressed on all natural killer cells, is the most specific marker of human NK cells and plays a major role in their tumor cell recognition. NKp46-bispecific NK cell engagers bind with one arm to an antigen at the surface of tumor cells, and with another arm to the NKp46 receptor on NK cells. This leads to activation and specific tumor-killing by NK cells, an immune cell population representing a significant proportion of all cytotoxic lymphocytes in the body.

“By building on our knowledge of the activating receptor NKp46, we have generated a technology to specifically induce tumor killing by NK cells. This new technology platform is complementary to our innovative portfolio of first-in-class antibodies targeting immune checkpoints,” Nicolai Wagtmann, chief scientific officer of Innate Pharma, said in a statement.

Under terms of the deal, Sanofi will pay approximately $436 million to Innate Pharma. Following the announcement of the deal, Innate Pharma’s more than 10 percent. The stock hit a morning high of $14.74 per share. Sanofi’s is currently trading at $40.60 per share.

In a separate deal, Sanofi said it will use technology developed by Warp Drive Bio, which has been in stealth mode since its founding in 2012, to discover novel oncology therapeutics and antibiotics, the company announced this morning. Sanofi will use Warp Drive's proprietary SMART (Small Molecule Assisted Receptor Targeting) and Genome Mining platforms to develop drugs targeting important human oncogenes including RAS, which has one of the highest mutation rates in cancer—and new antibiotics targeting Gram-negative bacteria. The antibiotic collaboration will focus on the discovery and development of novel Gram-negative therapeutics, Sanofi said.

Sanofi and Warp Drive will initially focus on three defined oncology programs targeting different mutants and states of the RAS oncogenic protein. Under terms of the deal, Sanofi will receive more than $750 million. Sanofi has been a backer of privately-held Warp Drive Bio since its founding.

Sanofi’s two deals are thrusting the company into the middle of the white-hot field of immuno-oncology. Immuno-oncology is a therapy field exploding with potential for developing treatments for cancer by harnessing the body’s own immune system to fight cancer infections. The idea of immune-oncology has been around for years, with one drug, Proleukin having been shown to be quite effective, although with several side effects.

Sanofi will be going head to head against other companies that have a firm toehold in the immuno-oncology field, particularly London-based AstraZeneca , which spent much of 2015 striking deals to bolster its own immuno-oncology pipeline. Novartis AG has also secured a strong position in the immuno-oncology field. In 2015, Novartis launched Novartis Access, a portfolio of 15 medicines to treat chronic disease in 30 developing and third-world countries. Medications included in the portfolio will be used to treat cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, respiratory illnesses, and breast cancer.

Back to news