Sanofi Collaboration Drives Regeneron’s Transformation From R&D House to Commercial Player

7/13/11Follow @arleneweintraub

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certain proteins from attaching to cell receptors and activating processes that may cause disease. Aflibercept is also known as VEGF Trap-Eye, because it binds VEGF and PIGF, two proteins that are involved in the abnormal blood-vessel growth that causes macular degeneration.

In 2003, Aventis (which was later acquired by Sanofi) signed a deal with Regeneron to apply the VEGF-Trap technology to oncology. Then, in 2007, Sanofi formed a much bigger collaboration with Regeneron—committing $85 million up front and about $100 million of research funding per year through 2012, with the goal of getting two or three antibodies into clinical testing every year. In late 2009, Sanofi extended the agreement through 2017, pledging $160 million in research funding per year, and upping the ante on the research goal by aiming to get four or five candidates into the clinic each year.

The Regeneron technology platform that Sanofi is banking on is called VelocImmune. It’s actually a mouse, which is specially engineered to have a part-human immune system. When VelocImmune mice mount immune responses to diseases, they produce antibodies that Regeneron scientists can then engineer to be fully human, resulting in drug candidates that are less likely to cause side effects seen with antibodies that are part-mouse. “We usually get thousands of antibodies against a target, which we can then sort through to find the one that has the optimum [drug] properties,” says Neil Stahl, Regeneron’s senior VP of R&D. “We’ve also developed other technologies to increase the repertoire of antibodies we get.” (AstraZeneca and Astellas have also formed research collaborations with Regeneron around VelocImmune.)

The expanded Regeneron/Sanofi alliance has produced … Next Page »

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