Sanofi keeps its eye on the China prize with Innovent deal

China is an important market for Western pharma companies in terms of both sales and as a source of R&D projects, but in reality the relationship is very much a two-way street. This is illustrated by yesterday's deal between Innovent Biologics and Sanofi over two of the French company’s oncology projects: SAR408701, an anti-CEACAM5 antibody; and SAR444245, a non-alpha IL-2 agent. These will be tested in combination with sintilimab, Innovent’s anti-PD-1 checkpoint MAb that is sold under a collaboration with Eli Lilly. Innovent will develop and commercialise the ADC while the partners will jointly develop the IL-2, with Sanofi leading commercialisation; the deal also sees Sanofi investing €300m in the Chinese developer’s stock. The French pharma giant has seen its China sales double in the last 10 years, hitting $3.1bn in 2021, and while the region's contribution to total sales has not ticked up recently, this deal shows that Sanofi’s interest remains strong. It is also the latest in a string of transactions struck by Innovent with Western pharma groups. Its 2015 partnership with Lilly has been extended and broadened several times, while a cell therapy and bispecific collaboration was forged with Roche in 2020.

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