Sanofi lets go of rights to Regeneron's antibodies in ophthalmology

Regeneron Pharmaceuticals has wagered on two preclinical programs for its growing business in ophthalmology drugs. The biotech heavyweight ($REGN) has forked over $20 million upfront and promised up to $45 million in milestones to its major partner, Sanofi ($SNY), for full rights to the pair of antibody programs for use against eye diseases.

The deal amends the collaboration between Sanofi and Regeneron for the antibodies that target receptors for platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF) and the angiopoietin2 (ANG2) receptor and ligand for eye ailments. Regeneron has agreed to pay Sanofi $10 million in upfront cash, $40 million in potential milestones and royalties for full rights to PDGF antibodies. For full rights to the ANG2 candidates in eye disease, Regeneron will pay out $10 million initially as well as $5 million in milestones and royalties to Sanofi.

Sanofi has kept rights to the ANG2 program for uses outside of eye diseases, including the REGN910 candidate in Phase I development for aggressive cancers.

Discovered in Regeneron's labs, the antibodies could eventually bolster the biotech's ophthalmology business, which has surged on the strength of rapidly growing sales of its eye drug Eylea, which is partnered with Bayer outside of the U.S. With Eylea zooming toward blockbuster status, the Tarrytown, NY-based company has reinvested some of its ample cash. Yet development of the antibodies in ophthalmology hasn't advanced beyond the preclinical phase, meaning that there are years of work and many hurdles to clear in trials before the compounds reach the market.

Sanofi and Regeneron have one of the most prolific partnerships in the biopharma world, and the agreement this morning does little to change that. The companies' work together has yielded the colon-cancer drug Zaltrap as well as REGN727, the closely watched drug that targets PCSK9 to lower bad cholesterol. Sanofi CEO Chris Viehbacher has highlighted the PCSK9 drug, which is in Phase-III development, as one of top prospects in the French drug giant's pipeline.

- here's Regeneron's release

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