Sanofi Licenses Natural Killer Cancer Program from Kiadis in $987 Million Deal

Signing Deal_Compressed

Kiadis Pharma, based in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, licensed a previously undisclosed K-NK0004 program to Paris-based Sanofi. The deal covers Kiadis’ proprietary CD38 knock out (CD38KO) K-NK therapeutics for combination with anti-CD38 monoclonal antibodies.

Sanofi’s Sarclisa, which was recently approved for multiple myeloma, is an anti-CD38 monoclonal antibody. Sanofi also picked up rights to use Kiadis’ K-NK platform for two unidentified preclinical programs.

Under the terms of the deal, Sanofi is paying Kiadis €17.5 million ($19.74 million, US) up front. Kiadis will be eligible for up to €857.5 million ($967.48 million, US) in various preclinical, clinical, regulatory and commercial milestones. Kiadis will also be eligible for up to low double-digit royalties.

“We are proud to announce this collaboration with Sanofi, which marks the start of the previously undisclosed K-NK004 program and expands the application of our K-NK platform into multiple myeloma,” said Arthur Lahr, Kaidis’ chief executive officer. “The agreement with Sanofi—with their world-class expertise and approved anti-CD38 monoclonal antibody, Sarclisa, in multiple myeloma and deep understanding of NK-cell biology—is a testament to the groundbreaking potential of our K-NK natural killer cell platform to treat life-threatening diseases.”

NK cells are the first of the human body’s immune cells to respond against cancer and infections. Antibodies team with NK cells to kill cancer cells in what is known as antibody-dependent cell-mediated cytotoxicity (ADCC). Treating multiple myeloma with anti-CD38 antibodies, like Sarclisa, depletes the patients’ own NK cells because natural NK cells also express CD38.

Kiadis’ CD38KO K-NK cells will stimulate the synergy between NK cells and antibodies. This will result in optimized efficacy in killing cancer cells.

The deal between the two companies provides Sanofi with exclusive global rights to research, develop and commercialize K-NK004 based on Kiadis’ CD38KO K-NK cells in combination with CD38-targeting compounds for multiple myeloma and other CD38 positive blood cancers. Sanofi also picked up exclusive rights to use Kiadis’ K-NK platform for two other preclinical programs that had not been disclosed previously. The license deal does not include rights to K-NK002 and K-NK003 or to any other ongoing and future Kiadis programs.

Sanofi will handle all R&D, manufacturing, regulatory and commercial costs related to the licensed program. Kiadis retains exclusive rights to and will supply PM21 particles and choose universal donors for Sanofi, and Sanofi will cover those costs as well.

Multiple myeloma is the second most common hematologic cancer. In the U.S., it affects about 130,000 people. Each year, about 32,000 people in the US are diagnosed with multiple myeloma. It is an incurable cancer despite various treatments.

In addition to Sarclisa, another CD38-targeting drug is Johnson & Johnson’s Darzalex. Because CD38 is also found in healthy lymphoid and myeloid cells, these drugs, as mentioned earlier, deplete NK cells. Kiadis’ NK cells may solve that issue. Sanofi hopes that by administering K-NK004 in combination with Sarclisa, it can maintain high levels of NK cells, which would increase the tumor-killing ability of Sarclisa.

Late last year, Kiadis was focusing on getting approval in Europe for its T-cell immunotherapy, ATIR101, in patients receiving stem cell transplants. But in November the company changed direction, halting a Phase III trial of ATIR101, and shifting its focus to NK cells.

Today’s deal gives investors something to cheer about. Analysts at Jefferies wrote in a note to investors, “We view €857.5 million total deal terms to be impressive given the early stage, with the 17.5 million upfront alone represents c.30% of the current market cap for a previously undisclosed asset to which we assigned no value.”

John Reed, Global Head of Research and Development at Sanofi, stated, “The licensing of Kiadis’ CD38KO K-NK cells is particularly exciting for Sanofi since we will be studying this cell-based therapeutic with our recently FDA approved treatment for patients with difficult-to-treat multiple myeloma, in hopes of bringing even more options to these patients with this hematologic cancer. At Sanofi, we are committed to pioneering treatments that address unmet healthcare challenges. Innovative collaborations, such as this partnership with Kiadis, have the potential to expand the clinical benefits of our medicines by combining them with synergistic partnered therapeutics to improve outcomes for patients.”

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