Sanofi and DiCE Molecules said today they have initiated a 5-year global research collaboration that could net the newly launched company nearly $2.3 billion.
The collaboration is designed to discover potential new therapeutics for up to 12 targets encompassing all disease areas of strategic interest to the pharma giant., with the goal of supplanting monoclonal antibodies with new oral treatments.
The alliance will use DiCE’s directed chemical evolution platform, which leverages directed evolution to select and optimize low-molecular-weight compounds against any target— beginning with libraries containing billions of individual molecules.
DiCE’s technology is designed to restore the libraries to their original ligand concentration after each round of screening, revealing the full landscape of binding molecules and allowing them to be selected easily for enhanced potency, selectivity, and drug-like properties through testing with proprietary assays.
The platform is intended to shorten drug development timelines through rapid and efficient discovery of a greater breadth of molecules for each target in the collaboration.
According to the companies, the platform also has the potential to unlock protein–protein interfaces that were previously unreachable for oral therapies.
“In the past, targeting protein–protein interfaces with small molecules was not thought possible in a generalizable fashion, especially in the development of orally bioavailable drugs,” Kevin Judice, DiCE’s president and CEO, said in a statement. “Our platform is uniquely positioned to overcome these historical challenges and this partnership with Sanofi reinforces the potential of our technology.”
Sanofi agreed to provide DiCE with funding in excess of $50 million in equity, upfront, target exclusivity, technology access fees, and research services, plus up to $184 million in research, clinical, and regulatory milestone payments per target and royalty payments based on any future annual net sales of each compound developed by Sanofi.
If all 12 targets are developed as envisioned, DiCE could generate $2.258 billion, plus royalties, through the collaboration with Sanofi.
“We are pleased to initiate this collaboration with DiCE and its unique technology platform, which brings the power of selection and enrichment to small molecule discovery,” said Dr. Kathy Bowdish, Head of Sanofi’s Sunrise strategic partnership initiative.
Under Sunrise, Sanofi has committed to investing in early-stage research that it views as aligning with its development and commercialization abilities, with the goal of speeding up development and broadening basic disease research.
A joint steering committee comprised of Sanofi and DiCE representatives will oversee the initiative.
DiCE’s core technology was invented by Stanford Medicine Professor Pehr Harbury, Ph.D., a recipient of the Macarthur “Genius” Award and the NIH Pioneer award.
In addition to Dr. Harbury, DiCE’s founding team includes John Bedbrook, Ph.D., chairman of the company’s Board of Directors; CEO Kevin Judice, Ph.D., discoverer of the marketed drug Telavancin and previously an executive at Genentech, Theravance, Achaogen, and Cidara; and Phil Patten, Ph.D., who held scientific roles at Maxygen, Achaogen, and DuPont before joining DiCE as CSO.