Sanofi taps Scribe for in vivo partnership worth more than $1.2B biobucks aimed at sickle cell and beyond

Less than a year since partnering up for the first time, Sanofi and Scribe are at it again, this time working together on new in vivo therapies in a deal that could see the Jennifer Doudna-founded biotech in line for over $1.2 billion.

The new collaboration gives Sanofi exclusive access to Scribe’s gene editing tech to develop new therapies, including for sickle cell disease, in exchange for $40 million in upfront cash and up to $1.2 billion in biobucks. Back in September 2022, Sanofi tapped up Scribe to develop ex vivo therapies—where edits are made to cells in a lab before being given to patients—handing over $25 million upfront.

The medicines that come from the latest collaboration will largely be Sanofi’s to run with, but Scribe will have the opportunity to opt into sharing the development costs and profits on one future program in the U.S. It’s unknown how many therapies Sanofi is allowed to tack on.

The focus on sickle cell disease comes just over a month after CRISPR Therapeutics and Vertex's approval application for their own therapy for the condition was accepted by the FDA. U.S. regulators are expected to rule on the application in December.

It could prove a blessing for sickle cell patients who have been anxiously awaiting a more permanent treatment that addresses the underlying issue but it’s created a development logjam of sorts for biotechs. However, Scribe CEO Ben Oakes, Ph.D., isn't concerned that he’s entering the game too late.

“The thing that I would highlight is that at Scribe we've had the ability ... to potentially up-regulate fetal hemoglobin for a very long time,” he said in an interview with Fierce Biotech. The company has essentially been biding its time to find the right partner to help bring a program forward, Oakes added.

As if it needed any more validation, the new deal underscores pharmaceutical companies' interest in getting a piece of Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier’s Nobel Prize-winning gene editing technology. Their work has already spurred the formation of more than a half dozen biotechs, many of which have partnered with larger pharmaceutical companies. 

In addition to double-dipping with Sanofi, Scribe also recently signed onto a partnership with Lilly's Prevail Therapeutics subsidiary that saw the biotech net $75 million in upfront cash and more than $1.5 billion in biobucks to tackle neurological and neuromuscular diseases. The company also inked a collaboration with Biogen back in 2021 worth more than $400 million, which has since expanded. 

Oakes wasn’t ready yet to take the lid off of Scribe's pipeline, however, saying that he wants the company to be “very thoughtful” about when that information is released. He similarly wouldn’t elaborate on how much Scribe could afford with respect to the number of assets it could push into the clinic and when. In addition to the $140 million in recently-accrued upfront payments, Scribe has raised $120 million in financing.