Sanofi, Avila ink $800M oncology drug development pact

The dealmaking machine that is Sanofi-Aventis ($SNY) is at it again, signing an oncology drug pact worth $40 million up front and up to $154 million in milestone payments per program. Overall, the deal is valued at $800 million. Avila was founded in 2006 and already has 28 employees. And CEO Katrine Bosley, who was named one of the top 10 most influential women in biotech, tells FierceBiotech that the company plans to expand its ranks in the coming months.

Avila, which has already landed pacts with Clovis Oncology, Novartis and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, will use its Avilomics platform to help Sanofi design targeted covalent drugs for six signaling proteins that are critical in tumor cells. Covalent drugs are small molecules that forms a permanent bond to a disease target and silences that target. According to a statement, the targets are difficult to reach using traditional pharmaceuticals but could be susceptible to Avila's targeted covalent drug technology. "One of the really great things about this past year is that we've really seen the tide turn for covalent drugs," said Bosley in a phone interview. She added that other developer are beginning to take notice of the little-explored drug class's potential.

Avila has the opportunity to retain the rights to one of the six collaboration programs; Sanofi will get the first shot at negotiations for the drug if Avila decide to hunt for a partner. Bosley said that her company's platform has demonstrated that hundreds of targets can be approached, so deals with other companies are possible.

"Sanofi-Aventis has a clear vision to transform cancer research, and its commitment to innovation has been very tangible to us as we worked together to establish this alliance," said CEO Katrine Bosley in a statement. "This partnership directs the combination of our broadly relevant Avilomics platform and Sanofi-Aventis' oncology insights towards the goal of delivering best-in-class medicines for patients who are fighting serious diseases."

- check out Avila's release