SCRIP [June 1, 2011]
“Sanofi and DNDi to tackle nine neglected diseases”
“DNDi is keen to replicate this partnership model with other pharma companies.

Sukaina Virji

Sanofi and the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi) have entered into a three-year collaboration for research into new treatments for nine neglected tropical diseases highlighted by the World Health Organization (WHO) as urgently needing attention.

Sanofi will bring molecules from its libraries into the partnership, and then both partners will collaborate to develop new drugs, with DNDi being the primary driver of the research programme. Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

The core of the agreement “lies in the innovative management of intellectual property generated through the collaboration”, say the partners. The rights to data generated through the collaboration will be co-owned by Sanofi and DNDi, and they intend to share the results, through publication, with “the wider community of researchers”.

According to Dr Elias Zerhouni, president of global R&D at Sanofi: “In this new research collaboration with DNDi, we have taken a firm step towards greater flexibility in the sharing of knowledge to produce new medicines.”

The nine neglected tropical diseases included in the collaboration are: kinetoplastid diseases (leishmaniases, Chagas’ disease and human African trypanosomiasis); helminth infections (lymphatic filariasis, onchocerciasis and soil-transmitted helminthiasis); and dracunculiasis, fascioliasis and schistosomiasis.

“For the three years of the agreement, it is restricted to the diseases mentioned, which fits our current disease portfolio,” Dr Jean-Pierre Paccaud, director of business development at DNDi, told Scrip. “At a later date, we could agree to extend to additional diseases.”

He added: “The licenses are non-exclusive and sub-licensable to perform research in the field of diseases and in the territory. The anticipated outcome is a clinical candidate. The jointly developed drug will be produced and distributed by Sanofi, or by a third party if Sanofi elects not to become the industrial partner. Moreover, if Sanofi elects not to pursue further the development of a product, DNDi can work with any third party to bring the drug to the patient.”

DNDi is keen to replicate this partnership model with other pharma companies. “It is a balanced agreement ensuring affordable access of drugs to patients,” said Dr Paccaud.

Sanofi told Scrip: “Such collaborations are part of Sanofi’s new R&D strategy, which seeks to fully embrace innovation and encourage partnership, collaboration and cross fertilisation for all R&D projects. Sanofi’s partnership with DNDi underscores the company’s commitment to pooling expertise and creativity from a range of internal and external sources to speed the discovery and development of innovative health solutions for patients.”

Sanofi has been collaborating with the WHO for a number of years on human African trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness), and recently widened this partnership to include leishmaniases, Buruli ulcer and Chagas’ disease.

DNDi is a not-for-profit product development partnership established in 2003 by the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation from Brazil, the Indian Council for Medical Research, the Kenya Medical Research Institute, the Ministry of Health of Malaysia, the Pasteur Institute and Médecins sans Frontières. The WHO acts as a permanent observer to the organisation.

Since 2007, DNDi has delivered four products: two fixed-dose antimalarials (ASAQ developed with Sanofi and ASMQ), NECT (nifurtimox-eflornithine combination therapy for sleeping sickness), and SSG&PM, a combination therapy to treat visceral leishmaniasis in Africa.