Sanofi has partnered with Regeneron Pharmaceuticals to discover, develop and commercialise new antibody cancer treatments in the field of immuno-oncology.

Under the deal, both firms will jointly develop a programmed cell death protein 1 (PD-1) inhibitor that is currently in Phase I testing and intends to start clinical trials in 2016 with new therapeutic candidates based on ongoing and innovative preclinical programmes.

The new deal will cover both monoclonal antibodies and new bi-specific antibodies. Regeneron will take the responsibility for discovery, antibody generation and development through proof-of-concept (PoC), while Sanofi will take care of further development and commercialisation.

"Regeneron will receive an upfront payment of around $640m from Sanofi and the firms will invest $1bn in discovery through PoC development of monotherapy and novel combinations of immuno-oncology antibody candidates."

With an ability to extend the collaboration for selected ongoing programmes for an additional three years, the exclusive collaboration to discover and develop potential monotherapy or novel combination immuno-oncology antibody candidates through PoC will be for five years.

Regeneron chief scientific officer and Regeneron Laboratories president Dr George Yancopoulos said: "The efficiency and power of our suite of technologies, such as VelocImmune and VelociGene, combined with our human genetics capabilities, uniquely positions the alliance to accelerate the development of potential new immuno-oncology treatment options for cancer patients."

As part of the deal, Regeneron will receive an upfront payment of around $640m from Sanofi and the firms will invest $1bn in discovery through PoC development (Phase II a study) of monotherapy and novel combinations of immuno-oncology antibody candidates to be funded 25% by Regeneron ($250m) and 75% by Sanofi ($750m).

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The firms have also agreed to equally invest an additional $650m to develop PD-1 inhibitor REGN2810.

Regeneron will also receive a one-time milestone of $375m from Sanofi in the event that sales of a PD-1 product and any other collaboration antibody sold for use in combination with a PD-1 product exceed, in the aggregate, $2bn in any consecutive 12-month period.

The firms also have agreed to re-allocate $75m over three years for immuno-oncology antibodies from Sanofi’s $160m annual contribution to their existing antibody collaboration, which was announced in November 2009.