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Sanofi Licensing Antibody for Autoimmune Diseases

Randolph Noelle

Randolph Noelle (Jon Gilbert Fox, Dartmouth College)

9 January 2017. The global drug company Sanofi is licensing a synthetic antibody to treat autoimmune disorders being developed by a spin-off enterprise from Dartmouth College. ImmuNext Inc. in Lebanon, New Hampshire could receive as much as $500 million under the agreement, but few other financial details were disclosed.

The deal provides Sanofi, based in Paris, with an exclusive license to further develop and commercialize ImmuNext’s synthetic antibody code-named INX-021. The antibody is designed to suppress overactive cell signals associated with autoimmune disorders, conditions where the immune system attacks healthy cells and tissue as if they were foreign invaders, like viruses. Examples of autoimmune disorders are rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and multiple sclerosis.

INX-021 acts against proteins known as CD40L that are found on immune system T-cells and elsewhere when inflammation occurs. The INX-021 antibody is based on research by ImmuneNext scientific founder Randolph Noelle, professor of microbiology and immunology at Dartmouth College’s medical school. Noelle, who also serves as ImmuNext’s chief scientist.

Research by Noelle and colleagues shows regulation of CD40L can act on a number of autoimmune disorders. “Antibodies that block the function of CD40L,” says Noelle in a joint company statement, “have proven in preclinical models of autoimmunity to be amongst the most effective agents in treating disease. The development of anti-CD40L for the treatment of autoimmune diseases offers a unique opportunity to silence disease progression and offer long-term remission.”

The agreement gives Sanofi a worldwide, exclusive license to INX-021, now in preclinical testing, for clinical trials and commercialization, where Sanofi and ImmuNext are expected to collaborate on those trials. ImmuNext will be eligible for milestone payments under the agreement that could reach as high as $500 million or more, as well as royalties on sales of products created under the license. No further financial details, including initial licensing fees, were released.

Sanofi says the acquisition of INX-21 will add to its current pipeline of treatments being developed for autoimmune disorders, including multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and atopic dermatitis, also known as eczema.

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