Sanofi steps off the sidelines to ink 3 ADC deal with Seagen, reigniting long-held interest in the modality 

Sanofi is stepping up its long-held interest in antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs). Having first teamed up with Immunogen almost 20 years ago, Sanofi has now joined forces with Seagen to jointly fund and develop three anti-cancer ADCs.

The Immunogen alliance, which Sanofi added to and then thinned over the years, has given the French Big Pharma one ADC, the CEACAM5-targeted tusamitamab ravtansine that is in phase 3 development as a treatment for non-small cell lung cancer patients. With a solitary ADC in its pipeline, Sanofi is a small player in a hot area of cancer research, despite its long-standing interest in the modality.

Partnering with Seagen positions Sanofi to become more of a force in ADCs. The deal sets Sanofi up to combine its monoclonal antibody technology with Seagen’s ADC platform to create up to three oncology therapies. Sanofi and Seagen have already identified the target of the first ADC.

The companies are partners on the programs. Sanofi will make a payment, of currently undisclosed size, to Seagen when each of the three targets are selected. But after that the companies will co-fund global development and split any future profits equally. 

John Reed, M.D., Ph.D., global head of research and development at Sanofi, set out the thinking behind the deal in a statement. “This collaboration will enable the synergistic combination of molecules and platforms to produce candidate medicines with the potential of bringing renewed hope to cancer patients and their families,” Reed said.

Reed arrived at Roche, his previous employer, after its Genentech unit had entered into the deal with Seagen, then called Seattle Genetics. The deal spawned the anti-CD79b ADC Polivy, one a clutch of drugs that has helped fulfill the long-discussed promise of the modality in recent years. 

Some drugmakers responded to the rise of ADCs by writing big checks, with Gilead paying $21 billion to buy Immunomedics and AstraZeneca entering into a pair of big-ticket deals with Daiichi Sankyo. Sanofi stayed on the sidelines throughout that flurry of dealmaking activity but has now secured itself a stake in a clutch of ADCs underpinned by technology from one of the biotechs that put the modality on the map.