Sanofi jumps on board Selecta's immunotherapy platform with $900M discovery deal

Sanofi ($SNY) is jumping on board Selecta's synthetic particle vaccine platform, promising up to $900 million in a wide range of potential milestones if the Watertown, MA-based biotech can deliver a slate of new, antigen-specific immunotherapies for food allergies.

Sanofi was lured in with the promise of a technology born in the lab of MIT's Bob Langer in collaboration with Omid Farokhzad and Ulrich von Andrian of the Harvard Medical School. Selecta engineers nanoparticles with the structure required to spur immune tolerance, boasting it can balance the "overactive response to specific allergy-causing antigens." Selecta, a 2011 Fierce 15 company, won substantial backing from RusNano last fall, agreeing to set up operations in Russia as part of the deal.

In this deal, Sanofi gains exclusive rights to develop a food allergy immunotherapy along with an option on two more, each worth up to $300 million in pre-clinical, clinical, regulatory and sales milestones. And Selecta also has a shot at double digit royalties from any marketed product that comes out of the discovery pact.

The companies left out any mention of an upfront in their release. Typically, a discovery deal like this is largely back-ended, with the prospect of big cash rewards landing well down the R&D road. The odds on collecting the full $900 million are also not so great, a point that drew a considerable amount of attention on Twitter this morning as observers batted around comments on the "biobucks"  included in these deal announcements.

But don't expect any of that quibbling to stop Selecta from claiming boasting rights on signing a marquee player to its list of pacts.

"We are very pleased that Sanofi, a global leader in vaccines and immunology is entering into a partnership with Selecta to develop and commercialize products from our immunotherapy platform," said Werner Cautreels, Selecta's CEO. "In allergies, as well as auto-immune diseases, organ transplantation, and protein replacement therapies, there is a lack of specific, effective and safe treatments to prevent undesired immune reactions. Selecta's SVP technology can restore balance to dysregulated immune systems by producing immune tolerance to specific antigens. Our approach addresses the underlying causes of these diseases and thereby makes advances beyond today's symptomatic treatments and allergen avoidance strategies."

- here's the press release

Special Report: Selecta Biosciences - 2011 Fierce 15

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