Collaborations, Deals

Sanofi builds on mRNA alliances with an $805M pact for Ron Renaud’s Translate Bio

A year after Ron Renaud’s team at RaNA bagged rights to an RNA platform at Shire and relaunched as Translate Bio, the group has scored a big pharma alliance with Sanofi.

Ron Renaud

The French giant is handing over a $45 million upfront to partner with Translate, which will now set out to develop messenger RNA vaccines for up to 5 targets. Translate will also be in line for up to $760 million in milestone cash if the work proves successful.

The deal comes just days after Translate Bio filed for a $115 million IPO, looking to join the queue lining up at Nasdaq. In the S-1, the biotech revealed that Shire owns about 20% of the company, making it the biotech’s largest shareholder.

Messenger RNA vaccines have also been a key early focus at Moderna, which has hoped to prove its potential — and back its unicorn status — through its initial vaccines work. In the meantime, rivals in the field have also been anteing up to play in the vaccines field as well.

John Shiver

Sanofi is a well known player in the vaccines field, but its homegrown dengue vaccine has imploded after fears were stoked that the jab raised serious risks, particularly among younger children not yet exposed to the vaccine.  The WHO, which initially backed the vaccine, has since withdrawn their support and urged physicians to determine if the people getting the vaccine have been exposed to the virus first. 

In the meantime, Sanofi has been steadily expanding on its external R&D efforts, striking collaboration deals like this with an eye to sucking in new technologies and expertise. The whole notion about mRNA in this field rests on the idea that new therapies can deliver the nucleotide sequence encoding a protein that can guard against a pathogen. And if it works, it can be manufactured less expensively and in bulk.

Sanofi has some experience in the field, signing up with BioNTech on a collaboration more than two years ago. They have also been working with Germany’s CureVac. Shire secured an equity interest in RaNA in exchange for its mRNA work, but neither company disclosed how much of a stake the Lexington, MA-based biotech came away with.

Said John Shiver, the head of R&D at Sanofi Pasteur:

We believe mRNA technology has significant potential for rapid and versatile manufacturing, reduced industrialization costs for multiple vaccines, and the improved breadth of immune response for infectious disease vaccines. The Translate Bio platform may allow us to further address medical needs worldwide, including those not readily accessible using conventional vaccine strategies.


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