UCB and Sanofi team to replace biologics with small molecules

By Fiona BARRY

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Medicine Sanofi

President UCB NewMed, Ismail Kola
President UCB NewMed, Ismail Kola
UCB and Sanofi have allied to replace current anti-inflammatory biotherapies with small molecule alternatives.

A UCB spokesman told BioPharma-Reporter.com the drug giants were at the beginning of their search for innovative drugs for immune-mediated diseases. “There’s a huge unmet medical need for oral immunology inflammation therapies,​” said Laurence Schots. “That’s why we went for this.​”

UCB’s President of New Medicines added the collaboration would combine Sanofi’s resources with his own company’s research. “Together we can maximize the opportunity to treat diseases currently treated by biologic agents with small molecules and thus benefit millions of people suffering from severe diseases,​” said Ismail Kola.

UCB New Medicines claims to have found a way of developing orally-deliverable small molecule drugs that are can modulate disease pathways that are currently only treatable with injectable biopharmaceuticals.

‘The sky’s the limit’

Schots, UCB spokesman, told Biopharma-Reporter.com both sides were “excited​” because “being able to get those properties from the large molecules and being able to transform that into small molecules represents a huge scientific challenge.​”

Once scientists find a way to transform biologics into small molecule medicines, “the sky’s the limit,​” he added.

The companies said they will collaborate “50/50​”, with a mixed team of scientists making “joint decisions​” to be based probably both in facilities owned by Belgian UCB and by French Sanofi.

The pharma giants will share costs and profits equally, although Sanofi will pay “initial upfront, preclinical and clinical development milestone payments,​” which could exceed €100m.

Project origins

The scheme arose after joint work between UCB’s small and large molecule teams, said Schots.

UCB specialises in immunology so we’ve got great experience in large and small molecules and both teams work together – that’s how this project came about, after an in-house collaboration.​”

He described the Sanofi-UCB partnership as an excellent fit, combining UCB’s biologics and anti-body expertise in immunology inflammation with Sanofi’s resources and mindset.

Schots did not say whether the collaboration with Sanofi – their first, apart from licensing deals – represents the start of a long-term strategic alliance, but ruled out a merger and said the company had “high hopes​” for the partnership.

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