Sanofi looks to Regeneron to salvage its R&D rep

Sanofi CEO Chris Viehbacher

Sanofi hasn't had much to brag about when it comes to new product launches in the 5 years since Chris Viehbacher took the helm of the pharma giant. While he's tried, not always successfully, to reinvigorate R&D--buying Genzyme in the process--new therapies have added less than a €1 billion a year to the top line, according to PMLive. But recently he's been back on the offensive, talking up late-stage prospects. And he's relying heavily on his deep partnership with Regeneron ($REGN), which has been having a field day with Eylea, to restore some lost luster to the company's R&D rep.

Viehbacher told analysts that Sanofi ($SNY) has "one of the better pipelines in the industry," reports PMLive, and the case he's making will go a long way to determining his success or failure in positioning Sanofi after tumbling off the patent cliff.

On the diabetes front, a field marked by a crowd of major league competitors, Sanofi's Viechbacher and R&D chief Elias Zerhouni have been bullish on U300, a new-and-improved version of its blockbuster Lantus, which will be needed to counter potential competition from Eli Lilly's ($LLY) knockoff, now in regulatory limbo for an expected 30 months. There's also LixiLan, a combination of insulin glargine and P-1 drug Lyxumia.

Improved versions of diabetes drugs, though, aren't particularly innovative. Regulators are tough on diabetes drugs, and developers have been crowding in to compete in every new category, like GLP-1 or SGLT2.

A late-stage dengue vaccine also merits top billing in the company's pipeline review.

Where Sanofi is finding its best prospects, though, isn't in its in-house pipeline, but rather at Regeneron, where a close partnership goes back for years now. 

Alirocumab, sarilumab and dupilumab are all at Regeneron. Alirocumab is their late-stage PCSK9 drug, which is also likely to face heavy competition. Sarilumab is a promising anti-IL-6R blocker which easily beat out a placebo in the first of a string of Phase III studies for rheumatoid arthritis that reported out last fall. And dupilumab (REGN668) is an IL-4 receptor treatment for allergic asthma and atopic dermatitis.

It's hard to mention Regeneron without raising the persistent rumor that Sanofi will one day make a grab for the company, the way it did with Genzyme. But in a separate interview a few days ago, Viehbacher said that he was happy to let Regeneron go its own way, piggybacking on R&D rather than relying on the company's internal research team. These big partnerships may prove the best way for Big Pharma to find the innovation it desperately needs to stay competitive.  

- here's the report from PMLive