Belharra Therapeutics has announced that it has entered a strategic partnership with global powerhouse Sanofi to spur the development of small molecule therapies for immunological diseases.

Under the terms of the agreement, the San Diego, California-based next-generation chemoproteomics company will receive an upfront payment of $40m. Moreover, the company is in a position to gain up to $700m in payments for research, development, commercial milestones, and royalties over the long term, as per the 18 June press release.

Belharra, which specialises in the development of non-covalent small molecules through the illumination of binding pockets on the proteome, will employ its proprietary screening platform to validate various undisclosed targets chosen by Sanofi. At that point, Sanofi will take over the reins and initiate the subsequent preclinical, clinical, and commercial activities for its chosen candidates.

Global Head of Immunology and Inflammation Research at Sanofi, John Bertin said the name of the game is to explore previously “undruggable” targets, in an announcement covering the deal.

Belharra’s proprietary platform, which is designed to deliver validated insights on “elusive” protein targets by illuminating binding pockets on proteins, and protein—protein interactions across various cell types, has also found favour with other pharma companies. In January 2023, Belharra signed a multi-year partnership with Roche Group member Genentech to discover and develop therapies in immuno-oncology, oncology, neurodegenerative, and autoimmune diseases using the former’s platform. Under the terms of the agreement, Belharra was set to receive an upfront cash payment of $80m and is also eligible to receive milestone payments for the development, commercial, and net sales milestones achieved over the course of the partnership.

Sanofi is also aiming to gain a stronger foothold in both the immunology and small molecule treatment space. Earlier in April, Sanofi partner, IGM Biosciences, shared that its collaboration with Sanofi had switched tracks to focus solely on immunoglobin M (IgM) agonist antibody development for immunology and inflammation targets.

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Additionally, in December 2023, Sanofi signed a $140m multi-year research collaboration with French pharmatech Aqemia to leverage its artificial intelligence (AI) platform for the discovery and development of small molecule candidates in undisclosed indications. Thereafter, Sanofi will drive the wet lab research, development and commercialisation activities for the drug candidates.