Sanofi inks $398M cancer R&D deal with Ascenta

Sanofi-Aventis (NYSE: SNY) will pay up to $398 million for the rights to several of Ascenta Therapeutics' early-stage oral drug candidates. The French biotech will gain access to MI-773 and MI-519-64, Ascenta's two most advanced drug candidates, which are expected to begin preclinical development later this year. The early-stage targets are being investigated for their potential to restore tumor cell apoptosis, or programmed cell death. According to Ascenta's statement on the deal, the experimental drugs inhibit the interaction between HDM2 (Human Double Minute 2) and p53, which could enhance cancer control and treatment.

Under the terms of the deal, Sanofi will gain an exclusive worldwide license to develop, manufacture, and commercialize all program compounds. Ascenta gets an undisclosed upfront payment, as well as development, regulatory and commercial milestone payments that could total $398 million. The developer is also eligible for royalties on drug sales.

"Ascenta's mission since its founding has been to discover and develop novel small molecules that can trigger apoptosis in cancer cells. Sanofi-aventis has a great record of bringing innovative cancer therapies like these to cancer patients around the world," says Mel Sorensen, president and CEO of Ascenta. "Restoring tumor suppressor function through the inhibition of the HDM2-p53 interaction offers the potential to control and prevent cancer progression."

- check out Ascenta's release on the deal
- here's the Reuters report for more