As Sanofi prunes pipeline, ex-Alexion crew at Rallybio picks up anemia drug
More than a year after it bought Kymab for $1.5 billion, Sanofi is getting rid of a preclinical program that came with the deal.
Sanofi has out-licensed its KY1066 antibody to New Haven, CT-based Rallybio who has redubbed it RLYB331. The deal saw Rallybio make an upfront cash payment of $3 million to Sanofi in addition to promising development and commercial milestones and mid to high single-digit royalties on net sales.
Rallybio, which was formed by old Alexion execs, is a clinical-stage biotech focused on developing therapies for patients with severe and rare diseases. Tuesday’s deal is fairly standard for the biotech, as its model is to scout rare disease drugs in academia and pharma and form a pipeline of drugs to execute a quick pivot to regulators.
This deal also comes as Sanofi reshapes itself through divestments, pipeline pruning and launching spin-offs as CEO Paul Hudson attempts to reinvigorate the company. By the end of this year, the company is looking to reduce its approved drug portfolio to about 125 franchises, either by divesting or discontinuing programs.
CEO Martin Mackay tells Endpoints News that this antibody has been on Rallybio’s radar for quite a while. According to Mackay, RLYB331 can address severe anemia with ineffective erythropoiesis and iron overload, with applications in a range of diseases like beta-thalassemia and a subset of myelodysplastic syndromes, among others.
RLYB331 itself is a monoclonal antibody that inhibits Matriptase-2 (MTP-2), which can increase levels of an iron-regulating peptide hormone. The standard of care for many such hematological disorders leaves some patients with iron overload-associated anemias, which can result in complications and even death.
“We see really big potential here. We’ve worked in rare diseases for many years now. And the key thing about working in rare diseases is making sure that the benefit is truly transformative,” Mackay said. “And we’re not looking for an incremental step benefit here.”
In terms of a timeline toward development, Mackay said that the objective now is just for Rallybio to fully understand the antibody, but it does plan to move quickly once that is achieved.
Tuesday’s deal comes after Rallybio brought in significant funding over the past several years, culminating with a $145 million Series B in 2020.