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HAMBURG, Germany—Evotec AG and Apeiron Biologics AG, a biotech company with a focus on immunological approaches to treat cancer, today announced a strategic collaboration with Sanofi to develop novel small molecule-based cancer immunotherapies.
This collaboration includes major research and development efforts to advance a first-in-class small molecule approach to treat solid and hematopoietic cancers by enhancing the anti-tumor activity of human lymphocytes. Based on Evotec’s technological expertise and Apeiron Biologics’ immunological know-how, the collaboration will also focus on the identification of novel small molecule hits and their targets for next-generation therapies in immuno-oncology, which are expected to complement the current offerings of checkpoint inhibitors.
In recent years, immuno-oncology has emerged as a particularly promising field to create superior and potentially curative treatment options for many cancer patients.
The collaboration is set up as an initiative to support long-term pipeline building for Evotec, Apeiron Biologics and Sanofi. All three companies will make significant contributions to this collaboration in terms of scientific expertise, technological platforms and resources. The collaboration will further enhance and complement Sanofi’s extensive oncology portfolio. It will enable Evotec to enter into the drug discovery area of immuno-oncology and it will substantially support Apeiron Biologics’ strategy focusing on novel and innovative checkpoint inhibiting approaches.
The agreement triggers two years of substantial research payments for Evotec and Apeiron Biologics with the opportunity to receive pre-clinical, clinical, regulatory and commercial milestones which could total over €200M (about $220M) as well as royalties upon commercialization.
Dr Werner Lanthaler, CEO of Evotec, commented: “We are pleased and proud that the joint efforts in immuno-oncology with Apeiron have led to this partnership with Sanofi. The collaboration is a great example of a most efficient translation from early-stage research to Pharma development.”
Dr Hans Loibner, CEO of Apeiron Biologics, added: “It is great to see that our work, even at an early stage, can attract interest from one of the world’s leading, large pharmaceutical companies. We look forward to applying all the different skills and resources bundled in this collaboration for the benefit of this treatment concept and ultimately for the benefit of the patients.”
“Immuno-oncology has emerged as a particularly promising field to create potentially curative treatment options for many cancer patients,” said Victoria Richon, vice-president and head of cancer research, discovery and early development for Sanofi. ”Our partnership with experts at Evotec and Apeiron Biologics will help us take the next step toward realizing the full value of these innovative treatments.”
Evotec is a drug discovery alliance and development partnership company focused on rapidly progressing innovative product approaches with leading pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, academics, patient advocacy groups and venture capitalists. The company operates worldwide providing high quality stand-alone and integrated drug discovery solutions, covering all activities from target to clinic. The company has established a unique position by assembling top-class scientific experts and integrating state-of-the-art technologies as well as substantial experience and expertise in key therapeutic areas including neuroscience, pain and metabolic diseases as well as oncology, inflammation and infectious diseases. Evotec has long-term discovery alliances with partners including Bayer, Boehringer Ingelheim, CHDI, Genentech, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, MedImmune/AstraZeneca, Roche and UCB. In addition, the company has existing development partnerships and product candidates both in clinical and pre-clinical development. These include partnerships with Boehringer Ingelheim and MedImmune in the field of diabetes, with Janssen Pharmaceuticals in the field of depression and with Roche in the field of Alzheimer’s disease.
Apeiron is a private biotech company based in Vienna, Austria, founded by Josef Penninger, developing immunological therapies against cancer. Its lead project, APN311 (ch14.18/CHO), is a chimeric monoclonal antibody against the GD2 antigen expressed on neuroblastoma and other tumors. The project has recently been submitted for marketing authorization in the EU. Apeiron's project APN301 is an anti-GD2 antibody-IL2 fusion protein (immunocytokine) which is currently in Phase 2 in the U.S. and Canada in neuroblastoma and is also clinically investigated in melanoma. Furthermore, a broad program is pursued to develop therapies to selectively boost the immune system via checkpoint blockade to fight cancer: besides APN411, an early-stage project which aims for development of low molecular weight compounds to boost immune cells via novel checkpoint blockade mechanisms (in collaboration with Evotec and Sanofi), Apeiron is pursuing APN401, a clinical stage project currently in a Phase 1 trial in the U.S. based on the collection, stimulation (by ex-vivo silencing of the checkpoint gene cbl-b) and subsequent re-administration of a patient’s immune cells.