Sanofi taps Immune Design to help battle food allergies

Immune Design Chief Business Officer Stephen Brady

Sanofi ($SNY) has reached out to Seattle biotech Immune Design ($IMDZ), looking to borrow the company's drug discovery platform to develop new treatments for food allergies.

Under the deal, Sanofi will trade an undisclosed upfront payment and as much as $168 million in milestones to get its hands on Immune Design's GLAAS technology, designed to activate dendritic cells and galvanize an immune response.

The biotech touts its platform as particularly apt for generating cancer immunotherapies, but Sanofi's interest lies in a single undisclosed food allergy, and the agreement grants the French drugmaker an exclusive license to discover, develop and commercialize multiple products for the target.

The agreement follows a 2011 allergy-focused partnership between the two and comes on the heels of Immune Design's three separate deals with AstraZeneca's ($AZN) MedImmune, each focused on vaccine development. All that Big Pharma interest in GLAAS "further demonstrates the broad applicability of this approach not only in cancer and infectious diseases, but now in allergic diseases as well," Chief Business Officer Stephen Brady said in a statement.

"Due to the immune dysfunction leading to allergic diseases, GLAAS' mechanism of action is well-suited to correct the imbalance, allowing for the potential of new therapeutics in the targeted indication that currently uses century-old technologies," Brady said.

And Immune Design has some internal plans for its discovery engine. Last month, the biotech pulled in $60 million in an IPO to bankroll the development of its proprietary cancer immunotherapies that harness GLAAS and the complementary DCVex technology, which allows for the in vivo generation of cytotoxic T cells.

The company has three Phase I candidates on its unpartnered roster, all developed through a marriage of GLAAS and DCVex. There's LV305, under investigation in 5 tumor types; G100, being developed for Merkel cell carcinoma; and CMB305, a combination of LV305 and the immunotherapy G305 that Immune Design believes may be its most promising asset.

- read the announcement