It’s taken more than three months to work through the detail, but Sanofi has now signed a deal to transfer its anti-infectives unit to Evotec.
The main elements of the agreement remain unchanged form when it was announced in March. Around 100 Sanofi employees will go onto Evotec’s payroll but will stay at the its site in Lyons, and more than 10 infectious disease R&D programmes will be transferred to the German biotech. Sanofi is also stumping up €60m in initial funding and says it will provide “significant” ongoing support without specifying numbers.
The deal comes after extensive negotiations with France’s powerful unions and government officials over the job security of the French employees under their new management, and the deal includes “specific long-term commitments of employment,” according to Evotec. It’s been reported that that includes five-year employment contracts.
The aim is to inject some biotech-style nimbleness and flexibility into Sanofi’s anti-infectives portfolio, and also for the unit to become an open science focal point – bringing together other “companies, foundations, academia, and government agencies,” says Evotec. That essentially means getting other research groups to put drug candidates through Evotec’s R&D platform, and tapping into public funding sources.
For its part, Sanofi is hanging onto options to develop and commercialise any potential product candidates from its contributed projects.
Evotec’s CEO Dr Werner Lanthaler (pictured) said that the biotech will have around 180 scientists working in this area when the transaction completes in the next few weeks – subject to regulatory approvals of course – and that will give it “the highest qualified translational footprint in infectious disease research globally.” It will focus initially on antimicrobial resistant (AMR) infections, tuberculosis, and malaria, as well as new-mechanism antiviral drugs.
Last month, Evotec’s chief scientific officer Cord Dohrmann said that the new R&D unit will have “one of the largest infectious disease drug discovery platforms and pipelines [with] over 20 projects” mainly in antimicrobial and antiviral therapy. Sanofi’s vaccines unit wasn’t included in the deal, and most of the projects being transferred are in the discovery or preclinical stages.
For Sanofi, the spin-out reflects not only the challenging nature of anti-infectives research, but also changing priorities at the French drugmaker, which is in the midst of a major revamp of its pipeline following the acquisitions of Ablynx and Bioverativ.
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