Sanofi buys Provention and diabetes drug Tzield for $2.9bn

Sanofi building

Sanofi has agreed a deal to buy US biopharma company Provention Bio for $2.9 billion, taking control of a recently-approved type 1 diabetes (T1D) prevention therapy Tzield that has been tipped as a future blockbuster drug.

The French pharma group said this morning that the $25-per-share deal said that Tzield (teplizumab) is a “strategic fit” that will bolster its leading position in diabetes, as one of the top three insulin-producing companies.

Sanofi previously had a co-promotion deal with Provention for the drug in the US, and made a $35 million equity investment in Provention last month.

Tzield was approved by the FDA last November, becoming the first drug that can delay the onset of T1D and delay the time that patients with the disease enter stage 3 – the point in the disease process that they become highly reliant on insulins and at risk of the serious complications that can accompany the disease.

There are around 65,000 people eligible for treatment every year with the anti-CD3 antibody, which was priced by Provention at $194,000 for a 14-day course, quite a lot higher than had been anticipated by several analysts.

Around 30,000 of those patients are estimated to be in the US, with sales expected to reach around $1 billion if Tzield is prescribed to 10,000 people, and the chances of that happening appear considerably more likely if the deal goes through and Sanofi can exert its marketing muscle and diabetes network in support of the drug.

“Given our existing partnership and complementary work in the diabetes and immunology spaces, we foresee a seamless integration and execution,” said Sanofi’s head of general medicines. Olivier Charmeil, in a statement.

Tzield is also set up for swift regulatory reviews elsewhere, with the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) in the UK agreeing to fast track the drug after filing.

Buying Provention also brings other pipeline assets in early development in immune-mediated diseases, said the pharma company.

That includes PRV-3279, a bispecific antibody targeting CD32B and CD79B in phase 2 for systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), anti-IL15 antibody oredesekimab in phase 2b for coeliac disease, and coxsackievirus B virus vaccine (CVB) PRV-101 in early-stage clinical testing.

Also on the go is the phase 3 PROTECT trial of teplizumab in newly diagnosed T1D patients, in the hope of expanding the indications for the drug, which is due to read out later this year.

Sanofi said it plans to fund the deal with cash on hand, and hopes to complete the takeover in the second quarter of this year.