Sanofi executes a billion-dollar package of deals

Yesterday Sanofi-Aventis (SNY) Chris Viehbacher gave a broad outline on just what the Big Pharma outfit was interested in buying. Today the company delivered some of the specifics, announcing deals to acquire France's Fovea Pharmaceuticals--an eye disease biotech--and in-license an antibody cancer program pushed by Cambridge, MA-based Merrimack Pharmaceuticals for up to $530 million.

Sanofi is prepared to spend up to €15 billion to reshape its pipeline, and its commitment of up to $542 million to complete the acquisition of Fovea marks its first foray into ophthalmology. "The acquisition of a further step in our company's goal to focus on new approaches to strengthen our R&D portfolio," said Viehbacher.

Merrimack, meanwhile, scored a $60 million upfront payment for the rights to MM-121, an antibody intended to block the ErbB3 receptor. Merrimack will be responsible for development through Phase II proof of concept on each indication and Sanofi will pick up the development work after that point. Merrimack is in line for up to $470 million in milestones and also retains co-promotion rights in the U.S.

The deals "are in line with Viehbacher's plan to diversify the company's disease areas, to find niche products that add value, and to expand in biotechnology-based products, in monoclonal antibodies, where the previous management was too reticent," said Societe Generale analyst Rodolphe Besserve.

Not on Sanofi's list of potential targets: Allergan. He told a French newspaper that he has no interest in either the Botox maker or Ratiopharm, a German drugmaker now on the sales block.

- read the press release from Fovea
- check out the release on the Merrimack deal
- here's the story from Reuters