Sanofi grabs a discovery pact with gut expert Ardelyx in $198M deal

Sanofi has nabbed the development rights to a portfolio of preclinical drug candidates from the gut transport specialists at Ardelyx, a small Fremont, CA-based biotech with some giant friends in the pharma world. There's no word on the upfront, but Sanofi ($SNY) has committed to pay up to $198 million in milestones if the portfolio delivers an approved therapy that can be used to treat hyperphosphatemia, a condition characterized by elevated levels of phosphate in the blood of patients with end stage renal disease and other forms of chronic kidney disease.

Sanofi wants to see if Ardelyx has found the key to hyperphosphatemia in its NaP2b inhibitor program. NaP2b is an intestinal transporter of phosphate and blocking it should be able to prevent the absorption of phosphate consumed in a daily diet.

This is Ardelyx's second Big Pharma pact. Back in 2012 the company struck a deal with AstraZeneca ($AZN) on its lead program, now called tenapanor (AZD1722/RDX5791). The drug is an NHE3 sodium transport inhibitor, designed to flush sodium through feces rather than urine, sparing the kidney and offering a new approach for patients with chronic kidney disease and irritable bowel syndrome. One of the big ideas at Ardelyx is that getting a drug to work in the intestines can spare patients many of the side effects associated with systemic therapies.

AstraZeneca--which has spent the last two years trying to recover from a disastrous R&D strategy--paid $35 million upfront and offered $237.5 million in milestones to take control of the mid-stage development work. Just a few weeks ago the pharma giant paid out a $15 million milestone on a clinical advance.

Ardelyx says it has raised $57 million in venture and angel funding so far, which includes a $30 million round back in 2011 that Amgen ($AMGN) participated in. 

- here's the press release