Sanofi and Evotec in major €250m research alliance

Evotec will acquire Sanofi research site and staff in Toulouse, France and license clinical projects in oncology

French drugmaker Sanofi has entered into exclusive talks with German pharmaceuticals company Evotec on a major €250m, five-year drug discovery alliance aimed at increasing productivity from its research and development activities.

As part of the deal, Evotec would take over Sanofi’s drug discovery operations in Toulouse, France, which employs more than 200 researchers, and create a ‘European centre of excellence for compound management and drug discovery services’.

Dr Elias Zerhouni, President Global R&D for Sanofi, said an alliance with Evotec would ‘secure the future for our employees in Toulouse and importantly accelerate our pipeline productivity’.

The Toulouse facility, a small molecule discovery site, will be integrated into Evotec’s global drug discovery platform. The expanded capabilities will cover the early stage discovery and pre-clinical process from screening to medicinal chemistry.

Evotec would accelerate drug discovery projects to the point of pre-clinical development candidates from which point Sanofi may take over the development and commercialisation.

An alliance with Evotec would secure the future for our employees in Toulouse and importantly accelerate our pipeline productivity

The proposed deal will also see Evotec license from Sanofi a portfolio including ‘five well-advanced pre-clinical projects in oncology’ that will be progressed to the investigational new drug stage jointly before potential partnering.

Evotec would also continue to expand its Cure X/Target X business model to leverage scientific expertise and a broad portfolio of drug development services to capitalise on the most promising science from French and European academia.

The two companies also plan to combine their libraries to make them available for screening to Evotec's partners. Sanofi’s library in Toulouse has more than one million compounds, and this, when added to Evotec’s 400,000-plus compounds, will create ‘a very large and valuable source of starting points for drug discovery’.

The collaboration will be a major milestone in the drug discovery space

The deal, which is expected to be signed in the first half of next year, includes ‘a sizeable up-front cash payment’ in addition to a co-development agreement with associated upfront, development, regulatory and sales milestones, as well as royalties for both companies.

Dr Werner Lanthaler, Chief Executive of Evotec, said the collaboration would be ‘a major milestone in the drug discovery space’.

Lanthaler added that it would also accelerate Evotec's strategy to become 'the leading drug discovery partner to the pharma and biotech industry as well as academia’.

Sanofi's Zerhouni said: ‘Open innovation is a key driver of Sanofi's strategy. We believe Evotec will be an ideal partner, a company that fits our quality expectations and our strategic vision.’