Sanofi expands China footprint with Innovent collaboration
Published: Aug 05, 2022
By Tristan Manalac
Global pharma giant Sanofi and Chinese company Innovent Biologics have penned a strategic partnership to develop and commercialize innovative treatments for patients with hard-to-treat cancers in China.
The deal will focus on two of Sanofi’s clinical-stage assets: SAR408701 (tusamitamab ravtansine), a Phase III antibody-drug conjugate targeting the tumor surface protein CEACAM5, and SAR444245, an engineered version of IL-2 currently in Phase II studies. Both candidates will be tested as a combination treatment with Tyvyt (sintilimab), Innovent’s checkpoint inhibitor.
The licensing agreement will grant Innovent exclusive development and marketing rights to tusamitamab, the more mature of the two candidates, in China. In return, Sanofi will be entitled to up to $81 million in milestones and royalties. The deal will also see both companies work collaboratively on SAR444245: Innovent will take charge through the clinic, while Sanofi will take responsibility for commercialization. Innovent will be eligible for up to $61 million in SAR444245 milestones and royalties.
On top of the drug development partnership, Sanofi is also making a hefty investment in Innovent, putting forward more than $300 million in the Chinese firm’s common shares, a price that is at a 20% premium to Innovent’s 30-trading-day average.
“This strategic collaboration with Innovent will not only accelerate the development, market access and future commercialization of two of our key oncology medicines in selected combinations with sintilimab, but also bolster our overall presence in oncology in China,” Dr. John Reed, global head of research and development at Sanofi, said in a statement.
Developed jointly with Indiana pharma company Eli Lilly, Tyvyt is an anti-PD-1 monoclonal antibody that, in China, is approved for the treatment of some advanced non-squamous cell lung cancers in combination with pemetrexed and platinum chemotherapy. The drug has already run into rough regulatory roads in the United States when the Food and Drug Administration in February required a U.S.-based trial before they gave Tyvyt the greenlight.
For Sanofi, this is only a slight setback for Tyvyt and one that might matter less than expanding its presence in China.
In the second quarter of 2022, Sanofi earned more than $810 million in the East Asian giant, up some 11 percent from the same period the year before at constant exchange rates. However, much of this was due to its eczema drug Dupixent and the disease treatment Plavix. The latter, in particular, saw a market growth of nearly 20% in China, raking in almost $130 million.
Meanwhile, Sanofi’s oncology program has been lagging, and the French multinational might be turning to the Chinese market to give its cancer drugs a boost.
Such a move is certainly in step with other big pharma companies, which have increasingly looked eastward in search of more growth. In June, British-Swedish AstraZeneca announced that it had grown its headcount in China by over 20% since it first opened an R&D facility in the country last October 2021. The company had also revealed plans to ramp up investment in China, including opening another R&D facility for rare disease treatments.
Joining AstraZeneca, Eli Lilly and Sanofi are Boehringer Ingelheim and Siemens Healthineers, both of which are expanding operations and supplies in China, as well as fostering deep local collaborations.