Sanofi and BioNTech have launched an exclusive collaboration to discover and develop up to five cancer immunotherapies, the companies said today, in a deal that could generate more than $1.5 billion for BioNTech.

Each cancer immunotherapy would consist of a mixture of synthetic messenger RNAs (mRNAs). The multiyear collaboration is designed to combine Sanofi's global oncology footprint and scientific expertise with BioNTech’s mRNA formulation technology, which is designed to generate cancer immunotherapies by enabling targeted mRNA delivery in vivo.

BioNTech will also supply part of the mRNA material needed for development activities from its in-house GMP manufacturing unit.

Sanofi has agreed to pay BioNTech $60 million in upfront and near-term milestone payments, plus up to $300 million-plus in development, regulatory, and commercial milestones and other payments for each product developed. If commercialized successfully, BioNTech would also be eligible for tiered royalties on net sales up to double digits.

Also under the collaboration, BioNTech has the option to co-develop and co-commercialize two of the five mRNA therapeutics products with Sanofi in the EU and the U.S.

“The collaboration with Sanofi is groundbreaking: through using our broad suite of mRNA technologies and extensive tumor immunology understanding, it will allow us to develop a completely new class of cancer immune-therapeutics with Sanofi, which we believe will have a profound and deep impact on the treatment of cancer,” BioNTech CEO Ugur Sahin said in a statement.

Founded in 2008, BioNTech—short for “Biopharmaceutical New Technologies”—is one of several companies with which Sanofi has launched cancer immunotherapy collaborations in recent months.

In August, the pharma giant began a research collaboration with Evotec and Apeiron Biologics to develop new small molecule cancer immuno-oncology treatments, in return for “substantial” research payments and more than €200 million ($219 million) for Evotec and Apeiron.

A month earlier, Sanofi agreed to join Regeneron in developing immuno-oncology antibody treatments, in a partnership that could generate more than $2 billion for Regeneron. And in May, Sanofi expanded a three-year-old alliance with Selecta Biosciences focused on developing antigen-specific immunotherapies, with Selecta eligible for up to $300 million.

“Immunotherapy has shown promise as an avenue to develop potentially curative treatments for people with cancer, and Sanofi has strategically launched a number of inter-company collaborations in this area in recent months,” Elias Zerhouni, Sanofi’s president, global R&D, said in a statement. “Our collaboration with BioNTech has the potential to lay the foundation for a unique therapeutic modality in immuno-oncology.”

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