Sanofi Deepens NK Cell Therapy Partnership with Innate Pharma

Sanofi_Michel Stoupak/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Michel Stoupak/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Sanofi and Innate Pharma expand their longtime collaboration by licensing up to three NK cells engager programs in cancer immunotherapy valued at more than $1.4 billion, the companies announced Monday. 

The French pharma giant will harness the capabilities of Innate’s B7H3 ANKET (Antibody-based NK Cell Engager Therapeutics) platform to develop cancer-fighting drugs. Sanofi will also be responsible for all development, manufacturing and commercialization after candidate selection.

Sanofi and Innate Pharma first partnered in 2016 to develop two bispecific NK cell engagers. The initial partnership, valued at more than $460 million, focused on activating the NKp46 receptor, which is expressed on all natural killer cells. 

The first asset from that alliance, SAR44379, is in Phase I/II studies for multiple forms of leukemia. SAR44379 is an NKp46/CD16-based CD123-targeted NK cell engager developed with the ANKET platform.

In July, Sanofi advanced a second asset from the 2016 deal into investigational new drug-enabling studies. The second asset, IPH6401/SAR’514, is a BCMA-targeting NK cell engager. Like SAR44379, it is a NKp46/CD16-based cell engager.

NK cells are white blood cells that play a significant role in the innate immune system. The FDA has yet to approve a drug using this approach.

For Sanofi, NK cell-based therapies are a key pillar of its oncology pipeline. The company broadened its position in the NK cell space beyond its partnership with Innate Pharma over the past several years. Sanofi inked a deal with Scribe Therapeutics in September and acquired Kiadis Pharma and its allogeneic NK cell technology platform in 2020.

Valeria Fantin, global head of oncology research at Sanofi, touted the collaboration with Innate. In a brief statement, Fantin said the partnership “supports our ambition to develop a diverse portfolio of next-generation NK cell engagers” that are “highly synergistic with Sanofi’s allogeneic NK cell platform, engineered lymphokines that stimulate NK cells, and growing Immuno-oncology pipeline.”

Yannis Morel, head of product portfolio strategy and business development at Innate Pharma, said the expansion of the partnership with Sanofi provides additional validation for the company’s ANKET platform.

“By incorporating various tumor antigen binders, NK cell engagers are a versatile technology that may provide new options for patients and offer clinical benefit across multiple cancers, whilst also maintaining a good safety profile,” Morel said in a statement.

The expanded licensing agreement between the two companies is valued at up to about $1.43 billion. That includes preclinical, clinical, regulatory and commercial milestones, as well as potential royalties on future sales.

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