Deal initially covers two targets and up to €44.5 million in milestone fees per product.

Sanofi-Aventis inked a deal with Pieris under which the latter will use its Anticalin technology to discover drugs against two targets for €3.5 million (about $4.73 million) up front. Anticalins reportedly have the potential to overcome some constraints of mAbs. The collaboration includes research funding, success-based fees, and the option for four additional targets.

For each new product, the agreement could earn Pieris up to €26.5 million (approximately $35.75 million) in development milestones for the first therapeutic application and €18 million (roughly $24.29 million) in commercial milestones. The firm would obtain further milestones if the same product is developed in different applications. Sanofi-Aventis and Sanofi Pasteur will have exclusive marketing rights worldwide for all such products. Payments will also include tiered royalties on sales resulting from the collaboration.

“Sanofi-Aventis’ basic objective of finding new solutions to address patients’ needs is furthered in this collaboration by exploiting innovative technology which focuses on some of the fundamental mechanisms of disease processes,” comments Leopold Bertea, vp of the Scientific Core Platform, Biologics Center at sanofi-aventis. “Pieris’ Anticalin technology will allow sanofi-aventis to take a more comprehensive approach to developing targeted therapeutics, as we believe the Anticalin technology will complement our existing suite of more conventional technologies.”

Anticalins are engineered lipocalins, endogenous low-molecular weight human proteins typically found in blood plasma and other body fluids that naturally bind, store, and transport a wide spectrum of molecules. The defining attributes of the 12-member human lipocalin class, and therefore Anticalins, are a four-loop variable region and a rigidly conserved beta-barrel backbone, which, together, form a pliable cup-like binding pocket. Anticalins contain rationally diversified amino acids within these four loops and ligand-binding areas of the beta barrel while maintaining the integrity of the lipocalin structure.

This diversity has yielded a drug class that provides specificity and affinity against a wide spectrum of targets, exhibits the safety of an endogenous protein performing an endogenous function, and is durable, creating greater flexibility of formulation and delivery, Pieris explains. Additionally, anticalins tightly bind a target as a monovalent molecule, overcoming the complications of multivalent binding approaches, when agonist receptor cross-linking is therapeutically counter-productive, the firm adds.

The company’s suite of proprietary phage display libraries has been created by rationally diversifying the lipocalin regions that are responsible for ligand binding. Different libraries are applied to different types of targets. Once defined, a novel Anticalin can be produced in a bacterial expression system.

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