UCB and Sanofi to collaborate in immune diseases

UCB and Sanofi have unveiled a scientific and strategic collaboration to discover and develop novel treatments for immune-mediated diseases in areas such as gastroenterology and arthritis.

The key to the partnership is that it will focus on developing small molecules for these diseases, where biologic drugs have dominated so far.

The most notable example of this in in rheumatoid arthritis, where the anti-TNF drugs such as AbbVie’s Humira have transformed care. But these drugs remain difficult to administer as subcutaneous or intramuscular injections, so any firms which can provide similar or superior efficacy in an oral form will have a blockbuster on their hands.

UCB already has presence in the therapy area with its Cimzia, and has in-house expertise in immunology, but doesn’t have the resources to match the biggest players in the field. Sanofi does have these resources, but has a limited presence in the therapy area – making the partnership a good fit for both parties.

UCB NewMedicines, the research arm of UCB, has an innovative approach to identify small molecules modulators of a biological pathway, for which parenterally administered biologic therapies have proven highly efficacious in patients. UCB and Sanofi will put together a team of scientists to exploit this route and others to characterise and identify new potential therapies.

Ismail Kola, President UCB NewMedicines said the combination of Sanofi’s expertise and resources with UCB’s research skills would be a strong one.

“Together we can maximise the opportunity to treat diseases currently treated by biologic agents with small molecules and thus benefit millions of people suffering from severe diseases,” commented Ismail Kola.

“Immune-mediated diseases affect individuals, families, and communities and impact the economies of countries and nations, making this poorly understood category of diseases a significant public health burden,” said Dr. Elias Zerhouni, President, Global R&D at Sanofi. “Joining efforts with UCB, we will address a scientific challenge in immunology, and increase the chances of accelerating the discovery and development of future therapies.”

The alliance will see Sanofi and UCB share costs and profits on a 50/50 basis. UCB will be entitled to initial upfront, preclinical and clinical development milestone payments from Sanofi, potentially exceeding €100 million.


Partnering to innovate: UCB pharma


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