Sanofi shifts focus to internal R&D as it preps an end to a stunningly effective Regeneron alliance

One of the biggest, most productive partnerships in antibody development is coming to a close.

Regeneron noted in its Q2 report Thursday that its long-running alliance with Sanofi on antibody development will expire — as scheduled — at the end of this year. And the pharma giant says it’s ready to shift to a closer focus on its internal pipeline, which has been a sore disappointment for years now.

During their run together over the last few years, the two allies have developed all of Sanofi’s major new therapies: Dupixent, Praluent and Kevzara. Sanofi ended up taking a significant minority stake in Regeneron, but carefully avoided buying the fast-growing Regeneron, widely credited with one of the most innovative antibody development shops in the world.

Elias Zerhouni

Sanofi R&D chief Elias Zerhouni told the board some time ago that “an acquisition would be the stupidest thing you could do.”

The Zerhouni rule, as he expressed to me: “Every company that acquires a platform company kills it.”

While Sanofi’s French R&D group has been wildly unproductive for more than a decade, resisting efforts at a revamp, Sanofi also found success in adding new MS drugs with its Genzyme buyout, adding to its Boston-based efforts. Chris Viehbacher came and went as CEO, and his successor Olivier Brandicourt has been thwarted in pulling off another big buyout — twice.

Sanofi and Regeneron have a separate alliance in oncology going on now, and Zerhouni is clearly excited about the potential of a late-stage PD-1 drug he plans to use in combo studies. In the meantime, Sanofi believes it can finally start to rely more on internal projects, though the external deals will still remain key.

Sanofi’s statement to Endpoints News:

We believe that we have succeeded in the mission of the original agreement – which was to translate cutting-edge science into groundbreaking medicines for patients with serious needs. We are increasing our focus on internal research capabilities, with the goal of creating a portfolio that is two-thirds internally generated, and one-third developed through external partnerships. At the same time, Sanofi is continuing to drive new medicines forward, and deliver on our robust late-stage pipeline. Part of this approach is a focus on commercializing the compounds that have come from the antibody discovery collaboration as well as our promising partnership with Regeneron in immuno-oncology.

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Sr. Manager, Regulatory Affairs, CMC
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