Sanofi Keeps on Rolling With Biond Biologics Partnership

Tehlia Ben-Moshe

Biond Biologics Chief Executive Officer, Dr.Tehila Ben-Moshe. Photo Courtesy of Biond Biologics. 

Biond Biologics announced today that it has entered into a potentially $1 billion global licensing agreement with Sanofi to take a joint stab at defeating advanced forms of cancer with a more comprehensive and expedited approach to immuno-oncology.   

"The emphasis in the development of cancer immunotherapies has been placed so far mainly on drugs that stimulate the adaptive immune system to attack malignant cells, in particular T lymphocytes. Unfortunately, many advanced cancer patients do not derive a durable benefit from these drugs,” said Tehila Ben-Moshe, Ph.D., Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer at Biond.

The Israeli-based biotech is dedicated to developing innovative therapies for cancer, based on its proprietary research of newly discovered immune-checkpoints and immune-evasion mechanisms.

The novel immune checkpoint inhibitor Sanofi deemed worthy of such an investment is BND-22, a humanized IgG4 antagonist antibody targeting the Ig-like transcript 2 (ILT2) receptor, an inhibitory receptor expressed on both innate and adaptive immune cells. It is being developed for the treatment of solid tumors.

Dr. Ben-Moshe told BioSpace that BND-22 differs from traditional immunotherapy in that it can elicit a more total immune response. 

“It is a new immune checkpoint that is expressed on three different immune cells: Macrophages, [Natural Killer] NK cells, and T cells. [It] can generate a broader immune response and involve different immune cells that each of them can generate an anti-tumor response in a different mechanism,” she explained.

BND-22 demonstrated a broad anti-tumor effect in preclinical studies, targeting ILT2-mediated “do not eat me” signals in macrophages, along with activating NK cells and CD8+ lymphocytes. It is slated to enter a first-in-human clinical trial by mid-2021 to evaluate its safety, tolerability, and preliminary anti-tumor activity in advanced cancer patients.

The overall program will be informed by a comprehensive biomarker strategy intended to guide patient enrollment at the advanced clinical trial stage.

“We believe that patients that express HLA-G on their tumor cells may benefit the most and we are developing assays to detect it,” said Ben-Moshe. 

 Under the terms of the collaboration, Biond will receive $125 million in cash upfront and will be eligible for payments totaling more than $1 billion based on development, regulatory, and sales milestones, along with tiered double-digit royalties. 

Sanofi, which believes itself to be on the cusp of a “transformative” year with eight drugs awaiting regulatory approval and 26 projects coming up right behind them in Phase III, is clearly also adding to its early-stage clinical pipeline. Oncology is one of Sanofi’s five primary disease areas of focus, along with hemophilia, hematology, rare diseases, and neurology.

 “From our many discussions with Sanofi we got the impression that they have the scientific enthusiasm to bring new immuno-oncology drugs into fast clinical development and to test them in various tumor indications based on a strong scientific rationale,” said Ben-Moshe. 

Added Biond Co-Founder and Chief Financial Officer, Ori Shilo, "we are thrilled to partner with Sanofi, an organization with a global footprint and exceptional drug development and commercialization capabilities. “We believe this collaboration creates substantial value for our shareholders and validates Biond's long term strategy to establish valuable partnerships with leading biopharmaceutical companies.”

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