Sanofi and Merck KGaA join forces on combo cancer drugs

The push for new research collaborations is shoving a pair of big pharma companies together. Just two days after the FDA outlined some initial steps toward speeding experimental combo drug treatments to the market, Sanofi-Aventis ($SNY) and Germany's Merck KGaA agreed to join forces on three cancer drugs that may be more effective in pairs.

The target drugs: Merck Serono's MEK inhibitor MSC1936369B along with Sanofi-Aventis's PI3K/mTOR inhibitor SAR245409 and class I PI3K inhibitor SAR245408. Investigators for each of the pharma companies will mount dose-escalating Phase I trials on the cancer drugs, with each gaining a license to assess the clinical activity of the drugs in pairs. Sanofi will look at SAR245408 combined with MSC1936369B and Merck will explore a combination of MSC1936369B and SAR245409.

"In the spirit of personalizing and stratifying cancer care, it is a logical step to combine new exciting molecules across pipelines and companies early on, to explore combined activity against cancer pathways," said Dr. Wolfgang Wein, executive vice president for oncology at Merck Serono. "We expect a strong synergy between both oncology units in driving the projects forward."

Sanofi has been one of the leaders in the pharma industry in pursuing new research collaborations as CEO Chris Viehbacher vows to reach out and find the best scientific partners around the world. And early-stage cancer drugs make a likely target for these kinds of combo collaborations. AstraZeneca and the U.S. Merck & Co. announced in the summer of 2009 that they would collaborate on a combo oncology therapy of their own.

- check out the Sanofi release
- read the Bloomberg report