France-based Sanofi has partnered with Dutch biotech firm Lead Pharma to discover, develop and commercialise treatments for autoimmune diseases.

Under the research collaboration and licence agreement, both firms will develop small-molecule therapies, targeted against the nuclear hormone receptors ROR gamma (t) to treat different autoimmune disorders, comprising rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis and inflammatory bowel disease.

The nuclear receptor retinoic acid receptor-related orphan receptor gamma or ROR gamma (t) is a key regulator of the cytokine immune pathway, interleukin (IL)-17, which lead to the differentiation of T cells to a pro-inflammatory subtype of T helper cells called Th17.

"Anti-ROR gamma (t) therapies represent a ground-breaking opportunity that we are eager and motivated to pursue through our collaboration with Lead Pharma."

Sanofi research and development, immunology and inflammation franchise head and vice-president Christian Antoni said: "Anti-ROR gamma (t) therapies represent a ground-breaking opportunity that we are eager and motivated to pursue through our collaboration with Lead Pharma.

"At Sanofi, we believe networked innovations, working collaboratively across science sectors, is the most effective way to bring meaningful new therapies to patients."

Under the terms of the deal, both firms will collaborate during the early phase of research and development to identify drug candidates and initiate human trials within three to four years.

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The deal will allow Lead Pharma to receive an upfront payment, in addition to research, development, regulatory and commercial milestone payments.

Sanofi will take care of clinical development, and is being provided marketing and commercialisation rights to any products, which may be developed under the deal.

Lead Pharma has been provided with an option to receive payments on global sales from any such products.

Image: Psoriasis of a fingernail, with visible pitting. Photo: courtesy of Seenms.