Sanofi to develop novel autoimmune treatments

Sanofi has entered into a new collaboration with Netherlands-based biotech firm Lead Pharma, focused on developing novel treatments for autoimmune disorders.

The Paris-headquartered company is not a leader in the crowded and competitive autoimmune disease field, but the new alliance could lead to an oral treatment for the conditions. Numerous companies are now looking to develop oral drugs which could equal or surpass the TNF-inhibitor drugs which have transformed treatment in the area in recent years.

Lead Pharma specialises in small molecule therapies against nuclear hormone receptors called ROR gamma t therapies, which could treat a range of diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA), psoriasis and inflammatory bowel disease.

“Anti-ROR gamma t therapies represent a ground-breaking opportunity that we are eager and motivated to pursue through our collaboration with Lead Pharma,” said Christian Antoni, vice president and head of the Immunology and Inflammation Franchise, research and development, Sanofi. He added that the collaboration reflected Sanofi’s strategy of pursuing ‘networked innovations’, of working with numerous external partners in different fields of expertise.

The deal will see Sanofi and Lead Pharma collaborate during the early phase of research and development, with the aim of identifying drug candidates and beginning clinical trials within three to four years. Lead Pharma will receive an upfront payment and is eligible to receive research, development, regulatory and commercial milestone payments.

Sanofi will oversee clinical development and have worldwide marketing rights to any products that emerge, with Lead Pharma receiving royalty payments on global sales from any such products.

ROR gamma t

ROR gamma t, or ROR gamma (t), is a key regulator of the cytokine immune pathway, interleukin (IL)-17, which leads to the differentiation of T cells to a pro-inflammatory subtype of T helper cells called Th17. This means ROR gamma (t) drives the production of key pro-inflammatory proteins including IL-17A, IL-17F and the receptor for IL-23.

While Lead Pharma’s approach is novel, the autoimmune field is very crowded with many companies developing next generation treatments, building on the success of the TNF inhibitor drugs such as AbbVie’s Humira.

The first interleukin 17A (IL-17A) inhibitor Cosentyx (secukinumab) was approved in January this year, as a first-line systemic treatment for moderate-to-severe plaque psoriasis.

Sanofi is already developing another drug with a similar mechanism. Sarilumab is the first fully-human monoclonal antibody targeting another receptor implicated in inflammation, the IL-6 receptor (IL-6R). Sarilumab is a subcutaneously delivered drug being co-developed with Regeneron, which has produced positive results in phase III trials in RA patients who were inadequate responders to methotrexate therapy.

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