2022-03-03| China

Sanofi Bets $2.5 billion on Adagene to Make Antibodies Safer

by Joy Lin
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Sanofi is betting more than $2.5 billion on Adagene’s masking technology to make antibodies safer. The Suzhou, China-based biopharma has agreed to conduct early stage research to develop up to four antibody candidates selected by Sanofi.

The French drug giant will pay Adagene $17.5 million upfront to collaborate on two initial candidates, while Sanofi can choose to add two more. The candidates will be exclusively developed in later stages and commercialized by Sanofi. Adagene could receive up to $2.5 billion if milestones for all four programs are achieved, as well as royalties on product sales. 

Related Article: Chinese Oncology Drugmaker to Raise over $600 Million in Hong Kong IPO


Making Activatable Antibodies 


Adagene’s masking platform, which it calls SAFEbody, aims to address safety and tolerability issues faced by many immunotherapies. 

SAFEbody uses a masking peptide to shield the binding domain of the antibody, similar to putting a cap on a pen to prevent ink from leaking inside the bag. 

The masked antibody only activates in the tumor-microenvironment, allowing the drug to target cancer cells with more specificity while minimizing off-target toxicity to healthy tissue. 

Adagene claims that its masking technology can be applied to other immunotherapies such as bispecific antibodies, antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs), and T-cell engagers (TCEs).


Adagene’s SAFEbody Collabs


Other companies have seen potential in Adagene’s masking platform. 

Last February, Exelixis signed a pact with Adagene to generate masked monoclonal antibodies to be further developed into ADCs. The deal included an $11 million upfront payment to Adagene as well as $780 million in milestones. 

And even earlier, Adagene penned an agreement with Tanabe Research Laboratories to develop an ADC against a solid tumor target. Adagene has also licensed its SAFEbody technology to ADC Therapeutics in a deal worth $166 million to develop an ADC against cancer. 

Related ArticleSanofi Bets $1 Billion on Preclinical Next-gen Immunotherapies


Sanofi’s Appetite for Next-Gen Immuno-oncology


Meanwhile, Sanofi has shown its desire to be at the forefront of immuno-oncology. After Takeda snapped up masking technology developed by biotechs such as Maverick, Sanofi announced a deal to acquire Amunix for over $1 billion. The buyout gave Sanofi a masking platform for developing TCEs and cytokine therapies, as well as Amunix’s lead candidate, a masked HER2-directed TCE.

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