Sanofi dumps an ImmunoGen cancer drug as it scales back in oncology

Sanofi ($SNY) is again trimming its oncology pipeline, walking away from an armed-antibody cancer treatment licensed from ImmunoGen ($IMGN) as it reshapes its approach to the field.

ImmunoGen disclosed that Sanofi has abandoned SAR3419, an antibody-drug conjugate designed to treat diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) and other blood cancers. The treatment combines an antibody engineered to target CD19--a protein expressed by tumors--with the cancer-killing agent maytansinoid, resulting in a targeted therapy.

The partners last spoke of the project over the summer, when SAR3419 notched a 43.9% objective response rate in a Phase II study on DLBCL, and investigators heralded its potential as a second-line therapy. But those data apparently weren't enough to keep Sanofi on board with its ongoing development.

ImmunoGen, whose shares fell about 11% on Friday, is "developing (its) plans" for the treatment moving forward, CEO Daniel Junius said in a statement.

Sanofi is rethinking its approach to oncology after a series of setbacks, cutting about 100 researchers earlier this year and merging its cancer group into its global R&D team. Tal Zaks, who previously led Sanofi's oncology division, jumped ship for Moderna Therapeutics in March.

Meanwhile, the French drugmaker is betting its reorganized R&D division can deliver 18 new drug approvals over the next 5 years under new CEO Olivier Brandicourt, counting on up to 6 this year and about one every 6 months from then on.

As for ImmunoGen, Sanofi's decision on SAR3419 hardly ends the nearly decade-long partnership between the two, which includes the in-development cancer treatments SAR650984, SAR566658 and SAR408701. The Massachusetts biotech is also working with Roche ($RHHBY), Amgen ($AMGN), Bayer and Novartis ($NVS) on similar armed antibody projects. Last month, ImmunoGen inked a $440 million deal with Takeda to collaborate in oncology.

- read the statement