Sanofi said today it has entered into a research collaboration with Evotec and Apeiron Biologics focused on developing new small molecule cancer immuno-oncology treatments.

The collaboration could generate two years of “substantial” research payments followed by more than €200 million ($219 million) in milestone payments for Evotec and Apeiron, the two companies said. The collaboration would also mark the second partnership between the companies announced in less than a week.

The new collaboration will focus on identifying first-in-class small molecule-based immuno-oncology therapies to treat solid and hematological cancers by enhancing the anti-tumor activity of lymphocytes within the human immune system.

Sanofi said it is looking to draw on Evotec's technological expertise and Apeiron Biologics' experience with immunology to develop treatments that are expected to complement currently available checkpoint inhibitors. Sanofi has the option of screening its own compound libraries to identify new small molecule candidates for development.

The collaboration is based on the initial successful outcome of a phenotypic high throughput screen of potential compounds for development that was commissioned by Apeiron Biologics and carried out by Evotec.

“The collaboration is a great example of an efficient translation from early-stage research to pharma development,” Evotec CEO Werner Lanthaler said in a statement.

Sanofi will have sole responsibility for all development, regulatory, commercial, and manufacturing activities of the products resulting from the collaboration. Sanofi said it has agreed to support two years of funding for Evotec and Apeiron to conduct the research program, which will include potential early success milestone payments.

Should Sanofi decide to continue the collaboration, the pharma added, Evotec and Apeiron will be entitled to receive more than €200 million tied to preclinical, clinical, regulatory, and commercial milestone payments, plus royalties on net sales.

On Friday, Sanofi and Evotec said they launched a research collaboration to develop new treatments for diabetes that will reduce or eliminate the need for insulin injections. That collaboration could generate up to €303 million ($329 million)-plus for Evotec.

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