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French firm has entered a multiyear exclusive collaboration and licence agreement with Germany-based BioNTech to discover and develop up to five cancer immunotherapies.

The companies will use their scientific experience in the development of these cancer immunotherapies, each consisting of a mixture of synthetic messenger RNAs (mRNAs)

Under the deal, BioNTech will receive $60m in upfront and near-term milestone payments and it also could eligible to receive more than $300m in development, regulatory and commercial milestones and other payments per product.

BioNTech will also be eligible for tiered royalties on net sales up to double digits if the treatments are successfully commercialised.

In addition, BioNTech has the option to jointly develop and commercialise two of the five mRNA therapeutics products with Sanofi in the European Union (EU) and US.

Sanofi Global R&D president Elias Zerhouni said: "Immunotherapy has shown promise as an avenue to develop potentially curative treatments for people with cancer, and Sanofi has strategically launched a number of inter-company collaborations in this area in recent months.

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"It will allow us to develop a completely new class of cancer immune-therapeutics.

"Our collaboration with BioNTech has the potential to lay the foundation for a unique therapeutic modality in immuno-oncology."

The research collaboration will see BioNTech use its mRNA formulation technology, which allows targeted mRNA delivery in-vivo to generate new cancer immunotherapies.

The German firm will also supply part of the mRNA material needed for development activities from its in-house GMP manufacturing unit.

BioNTech CEO Ugur Sahin said: "The collaboration with Sanofi is groundbreaking: through using our broad suite of mRNA technologies and extensive tumor immunology understanding, it will allow us to develop a completely new class of cancer immune-therapeutics with Sanofi, which we believe will have a profound and deep impact on the treatment of cancer.

"This alliance is in line with our strategy to collaborate with companies that share our passion and drive to develop and commercialise truly innovative and disruptive immunotherapies for the treatment of cancer."

Image: Sanofi and BioNTech will develop five cancer immunotherapies each consisting of a mixture of synthetic mRNAs. Photo: courtesy of Michelle Meiklejohn/