Sanofi is shrinking its oncology R&D operations as part of a restructuring focused on development of cancer treatments.
The restructuring will shift cancer R&D from its own separate “Sanofi Oncology” division to an R&D Strategic Therapeutic Unit (TSU) reporting directly to Sanofi’s Global R&D operation.
Sanofi did not confirm how many jobs will be cut, though Elias Zerhouni, M.D., Sanofi’s president, Global R&D, told Bloomberg that about 100 jobs of R&D staffers in North America would be eliminated. One of those 100 is believed to be Tal Zaks, svp and head of Global Oncology, according to an industry source, though the pharma giant would not confirm any specific layoffs.
“Sanofi communicated a natural evolution of its research and development organization that will prioritize its focus and investments in exciting areas of science and medicine,” the company told GEN in a statement.
Dr. Zerhouni described the restructuring as “adjustments according to the fortunes or misfortunes of particular programs,” without specifying the programs.
But in releasing fourth-quarter results on February 5, Sanofi disclosed two setbacks in cancer R&D. The company “has decided to opt out of” SAR307746, an anti-ANG2 monoclonal antibody evaluated in solid tumors; the compound is now on partial clinical hold.
SAR307746, also called Nesvacumab or REGN910, was one of two collaborations with Regeneron halted by Sanofi. The other was SAR43858, a respiratory syncytial virus (RSV-F) protein inhibitor monoclonal antibody.
Sanofi also said it “decided not to pursue the development of SAR260301,” a Phase I phosphatidylinositol-3-kinase (PI3K) beta selective inhibitor evaluated for phosphatase and tensin homolog (PTEN)-deficient tumors. No explanation was offered.
The halt of SAR260301 appears to have been sudden, since as late as January 20, Sanofi was recruiting participants for “A Phase I/Ib trial for the evaluation of SAR260301 in monotherapy or in combination with vemurafenib in patients with various advanced cancer,” according to the trial’s page on ClinicalTrials.gov.
The primary objectives of that trial (NCT01673737) were to determine the maximum tolerated dose (MTD) of SAR260301 administered as monotherapy on a once or twice daily schedule, to patients with advanced solid tumors or lymphomas; as well as the MTD in combination with the recommended standard dosage of vemurafenib to patients with unresectable/metastatic v-raf murine sarcoma viral oncogene homolog B1 (BRAF)-mutated melanoma.
In a listing of its R&D pipeline included with fourth-quarter 2014 results, Sanofi mentioned numerous cancer drugs:
- Phase III: Jevtana® (cabazitaxel), a Phase III drug under study for metastatic prostate cancer (1L)
- Phase II: SAR650984, an anti-CD38 naked mAb for multiple myeloma; SAR3419, a Maytansin-loaded anti-CD19 mAb for B-cell refractory/relapsed malignancies; the combination of SAR245409 (XL765) / MSC1936369B, an oral dual inhibitor of PI3K & mTOR / pimasertib for ovarian cancer;
- Phase I: SAR405838 (MI-773), an HDM2 / p53 antagonist for solid tumors; SAR566658, a Maytansin-loaded anti-CA6 mAb for solid tumors; SAR125844, a C-MET kinase inhibitor for solid tumors; SAR245408 (XL147), an oral PI3K inhibitor for solid tumors; the combination of SAR245408 and MSC 1936369B for solid tumors; and SAR408701, an anti-carcinoembryonic antigen-related cell adhesion molecule 5 (CEACAM5) antibody-drug conjugate (ADC) for solid tumors
Sanofi also disclosed a 4.4% decrease in net sales of cancer drugs from 2013, dipping to €1.401 billion (about $1.583 billion) from €1.465 billion ($1.656 billion).
The restructuring will also affect Sanofi subsidiary Genzyme, whose R&D operations until now have included cancer.
Genzyme R&D will narrow its focus, the industry source said, on rare diseases and neuro-immunology, including support for existing and next-generation therapies for multiple sclerosis (MS) and rare genetic diseases, and new programs for spinal muscular atrophy, Parkinson’s disease, and genetic kidney disease. Priority projects for Genzyme R&D include Niemann-Pick, the oral Fabry, Anti-VLA2 mAb (MS), Neo GAA (Pompe disease) and the Alnylam program.