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2022-08-05| ChinaFundingLicensing

Sanofi Invests in Innovent to Gain Stronger Foothold in China

by Reed Slater
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Hoping to establish a larger presence in China, Paris-based Sanofi will invest €300 million in Innovent Biologics in a cancer treatment-focused partnership. The duo will work to develop two oncology assets in Sanofi’s pipeline, SAR408701, an antibody-drug conjugate candidate, and SAR444245, a non-alpha IL-2, combined with Innovent and Eli Lilly’s sintilimab, China’s leading checkpoint inhibitor. 

The Search for Chinese Approval in Two Promising Candidates

Sanofi’s SAR408701, or tusamitamab ravtansine, is in global Phase 3 trials to treat non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). It is an antibody-drug conjugate designed to target a cell surface glycoprotein highly expressed in NSCLC. The candidate is also in Phase 2 studies in other NSCLC applications, gastric cancer, and solid tumors. 

According to the press release, Innovent will be responsible for developing and commercializing tusamitamab for multiple oncology indications in China. Sanofi could make up to 80 million in development and commercial milestones, including royalties on net sales. 

The other candidate of interest, SAR444245, is in five separate Phase 2 trials targeting NSCLC, skin cancer, head and neck tumors, lymphoma, and gastrointestinal cancer. Innovent will lead the development of the drug, but Sanofi will maintain commercialization responsibility. Innovent will be eligible for up to €60 million in development milestones and royalties sales on SAR444245. Sanofi will retain marketing authorization for both products throughout the process. 

Global Head of Research and Development at Sanofi, John Reed, M.D., Ph.D., said, “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.”

Related Article: Roche Dives Deeper into Off-The-Shelf Cell Therapies in Poseida Partnership

Globalizing in Both Directions

Although Sanofi and Innovent’s partnership will enhance Sanofi’s presence in China in the short term, Innovent is likely to benefit in the long term in hopes of penetrating Western markets. The China-based company has struggled to enter Western markets in the past, so the partnership could be a way to get its foot in the door for future globalization efforts. 

The drug the two companies will study in combination with Sanofi’s candidates, sintilimab, brand name Tyvyt, is China’s leading checkpoint inhibitor for a variety of oncology indications. Still, the FDA stonewalled it in February this year, denying a recommendation for approval. Innovent developed Tyvyt alongside Eli Lilly but only ran clinical trials in China. On top of the limited clinical trial diversity, the primary endpoints of the trials included progression-free survival instead of overall survival, standard in most FDA considerations. 

Hopefully, Innovent learned a lesson or two in its globalization struggles with Tyvyt that it can apply to its newfound partnership with Sanofi. In addition to the collaboration with Sanofi, Innovent announced in March that it would expand its partnership with Eli Lilly to bring more FDA-approved treatments into China. 

Sanofi has been interested in the Chinese market for some time now, founding Sanofi China in 2004, but its Chinese sales are still just a fraction of its global sales. In its Q2 financial statement, Sanofi said its Chinese sales grew to €798 million, largely driven by sales of non-oncology drugs. 

The collaboration between Sanofi and Innovent appears to be a good move for both companies. Sanofi can increase its presence in China, and Innovent can create stronger ties with Western companies in hopes of future globalization. The Sanofi oncology candidates the two will develop together seem to show a lot of promise and will serve the Chinese market in years to come if all goes well. 

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