Sanofi punts 38 R&D projects to narrow pipeline focus

Sanofi has picked 17 programs for accelerated development, eight of which target cancers. (Sanofi)

Sanofi has punted 38 R&D projects from its pipeline. The cull (PDF) comes as Sanofi continues to increase its focus on oncology and other specialty care areas under the R&D leadership of John Reed.

Over the past two years, Sanofi has sought to improve its R&D and fiscal performance by prioritizing programs in oncology, immunology, rare diseases and rare blood disorders. Guided by that strategy, Sanofi has performed a review of its pipeline that led it to jettison 13 development programs and 25 research-stage projects.

ALX-0171 is among the higher-profile projects to get the chop. Sanofi highlighted the midphase anti-respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) antibody as a driver of shareholder value when trying to justify why it blew Novo Nordisk’s bid for Ablynx away with a €3.9 billion ($4.4 billion) all-cash counter offer a year ago. Now, Sanofi is listing the RSV program among the midphase projects it stopped recently. 

News of some of the other higher-profile victims of the cull emerged earlier in the quarter. Sanofi’s decision to let its collaboration with MyoKardia expire at the end of 2018 was behind the removal of several of the clinical programs. And Immune Design revealed Sanofi had walked away from a pact that gave rise to a TLR4 peanut allergy program late last year.

Other partnered or in-licensed programs affected by the cull include SAR228810, UshStat and the artefenomel-ferroquine combination. Sanofi licensed SAR228810, a beta-amyloid antibody, from The Rockefeller University in 2009 and moved it into the clinic two years later. But despite thinking it had an edge over Biogen’s BAN2401 and Roche’s gantenerumab, Sanofi has dropped the drug.

Sanofi’s involvement with UshStat dates back to 2009, too. Back then, Sanofi secured rights to the gene therapy from Oxford BioMedica. In 2014, Sanofi expanded the deal to cover the use of the therapy in all ocular diseases. Now though, Sanofi is set to drop UshStat if it can find an out-licensing partner.

The artefenomel-ferroquine combination is part of Sanofi’s work with the Medicines for Malaria Ventures (MMV). Sanofi took the malaria cocktail into the clinic but in December decided to transfer responsibility for further development to MMV.

All the other development projects discarded in the pipeline review originated at Sanofi or one of the companies it has bought in recent years. GZ389988, an osteoarthritis treatment from Genzyme that Sanofi took as far as phase 2, is out, as is midphase GLP-1/GCG dual agonist SAR425899. Early data on SAR425899 suggested it had positive glycemic effects and helped reduce weight, but left scope for doubts about whether it could improve on pure GLP-1R agonists.

The cull and earlier decisions have left Sanofi with a clinical portfolio that is 90% focused on the clutch of therapeutic areas it has identified as drivers of future growth. Of the remaining programs, Sanofi has picked out 17 for accelerated development. Around half of the chosen projects are cancer programs.    

This comes in the same week as other Big Pharmas have been sweeping out unwanted assets, with Eil Lilly saying goodbye to a trio of pipeline drugs yesterday, joined by GlaxoSmithKline, which culled six drugs, predominately from its respiratory business, as it looks to focus more intently in oncology.