Deal covers two research-stage small molecules that restore p53 function.

Sanofi-Aventis has obtained an exclusive, worldwide license covering two anticancer agents from Ascenta Therapeutics. The company will pay an up-front fee as well as development, regulatory, and commercial milestones that could reach a total of $398 million.

The agreement includes two agents that Ascenta in-licensed from the University of Michigan, MI-773 and MI-519-64. These orally active, small molecule candidates inhibit the interaction between HDM2 (human double minute 2) and p53, removing a block to normal p53 tumor suppressor function, and potentially enhancing cancer control and treatment.

“Restoring tumor suppressor function through the inhibition of the HDM2-p53 interaction offers the potential to control and prevent cancer progression,” says Mel Sorensen, M.D., president and CEO of Ascenta Therapeutics. “Ascenta’s mission since its founding has been to discover and develop novel small molecules that can trigger apoptosis in cancer cells.”

Both companies will continue to fund research on these targets at the University of Michigan, and Ascenta may participate in ongoing research activities and future clinical development. Additionally, Ascenta is eligible to receive tiered royalties on worldwide product sales.

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