Sanofi teams with Rib-X on new crop of antibiotics

Sanofi is stepping out into the antibiotic field with an ambitious new development program it's formed with New Haven, CT-based Rib-X. In the deal Sanofi will hand over $10 million upfront and $9 million in near-term cash to support research work. And the pharma giant will get to pick new products from Rib-X's RX-04 program, paying up to $186 million-plus in development and commercial milestones on each. A low double-digit royalty would apply for any approved treatments and Rib-X gets to keep co-promotion rights in the U.S. on the pick of the litter.

For Rib-X the deal helps accelerate its own pipeline projects and adds a solid corporate endorsement just months after the biotech closed a $20 million venture round and launched a Phase IIb study of a lead program. Sanofi gets access to new antibacterial technology that has the potential to address a new crop of drug-resistant superbugs. Public health officials have been clamoring for Big Pharma companies to return to antibacterial work after shunning a field noted for slim margins.

"We are very enthusiastic about entering into this collaboration with Rib-X," said Elias Zerhouni, M.D., chief of global research and development at Sanofi. "The clinical need for new antibiotics is reaching crisis level, yet the antibiotic pipeline is running dry and fewer and fewer companies are working to develop drugs in this space. This partnership exemplifies Sanofi's commitment to translate novel approaches for treatment into patient solutions addressing the global critical need to combat the rising threat of antibiotic drug resistance."

The RX-04 program targets bacterial ribosomes, an internal cell component, where proteins are synthesized from amino acids and RNA. Back in early February Rib-X launched a Phase IIb clinical trial of its delafloxacin with linezolid and vancomycin for acute bacterial skin and skin structure infections, including infections caused by MRSA. The biotech says that Sanofi has ID'd four promising programs, but notes that there's no upper limit to the number of new antibiotics that Sanofi could choose.

- here's the Rib-X release