Enteris BioPharma signs oral diabetes pact with Sanofi

Both Sanofi and Enteris have been light on the details of their R&D deal.

New Jersey biotech Enteris BioPharma has signed a new research deal with French Big Pharma Sanofi to use its tech to help carve out a potential oral form of one of its early-stage candidates.  

The two have signed a feasibility study agreement that will lean on Enteris’ oral peptide and small molecule delivery platform, Peptelligence, to help Sanofi create an oral formulation for one of its preclinical stage peptides in Type 2 diabetes.

No financial details, or further details about the candidate, were given in the very brief statement.

Joel Tune, CEO of Enteris BioPharma, said: “Our agreement with Sanofi is further validation of the tremendous value our Peptelligence platform program offers in the therapeutic peptide field. We are excited to work with an industry leader like Sanofi.”

Currently, the biotech’s most advanced internal product candidate is Ovarest, an oral peptide for endometriosis, that is slated to start phase 2a trials in the next quarter.

Last year, both Bristol-Myers Squibb and Novo Nordisk pulled out certain research deals to work on oral insulin, the next-gen class in diabetes medicine, but one that has proven tough to master in clinical research.

In May, BMS, after already taking several steps back from diabetes in recent years, pulled out of its deal with Biocon to develop oral insulin. In October, Novo followed suit, cutting its oral insulin program amid an R&D rejig.

Oral insulin is the dream of many in pharma and biotech, as it would eliminate the need for injections, something that many patients struggle with, and would therefore likely become a major blockbuster if it could produce similar safety and efficacy rates as injectable insulin.

But many companies’ pipelines are littered with failed attempts. Insulin and GLP-1s (which are used in some new classes of insulin) when taken orally are attacked by digestive enzymes in the gastrointestinal tract whose job it is to break down proteins, which is useful for food uptake but damaging if the protein is a drug that needs to stay intact.

And even if they were to somehow survive in the stomach, these large molecules would then have difficulty passing through the wall of the intestine and entering the bloodstream. Getting around this problem has been a major cause of frustration for the industry.

But there is still money to be made by those who get it right, and last year Sydbank analyst Soren Lontoft predicted that the Type 2 oral insulin market could be worth up to $15 billion, although this would have taken a hit with Novo’s retreat, given that it was seen as leading the field.