Sanofi adds a $120M computational drug design deal with Schrödinger

Looking to gain an edge for its lackluster in-house R&D operations, Sanofi has signed on with Schrödinger to use computational design technology to help guide up to 10 drug discovery programs, promising to pay up to $120 million in milestones for the work.

After 25 years in operation, Schrödinger has established outposts in the U.S., Europe and Asia. The tech company helped found Cambridge, MA-based Nimbus Therapeutics, a 2013 Fierce 15 company which recently snagged a $43 million B round from some marquee investors that included Bill Gates and Pfizer ($PFE).

In this deal, which Schrödinger's Ramy Farid says expands on their existing collaboration, the design group will assist Sanofi ($SNY) on target analysis and validation to lead identification and lead optimization. And while this is the tech company's first such tie-up with a Big Pharma client, it may well also not be the last.

"We of course would like to work in similarly expanded fashion with other industry clients, but to date, this is the only contract that we've signed," notes a company spokesperson in an email to FierceBiotech.

Sanofi has been experiencing considerable turmoil. It has a new CEO, Olivier Brandicourt, joining the company today after Chris Viehbacher was given the heave-ho. While Sanofi has enjoyed a close development partnership with Regeneron and more recently signed on with Alnylam, its in-house development groups have struggled to perform--a topic that Viehbacher popularized during his tenure at the company. Slowed down by powerful political forces in France opposed to downsizing in Europe, the company has been building operations in the Boston area, though the pharma giant also recently downsized its cancer R&D efforts there.

"Collaborating with Schrödinger is an effective way for Sanofi to gain access to first rate computational design resources," said Elias Zerhouni, the global R&D chief at Sanofi. "In the interest of perpetual innovation, we are constantly looking at cutting-edge technologies to advance our research."

- here's the release