FRANCE – China’s Adagene Inc, a Nasdaq-listed innovative biopharmaceutical company focused on the discovery and development of antibody-based novel cancer immunotherapy has announced a collaboration and signed an exclusive license agreement with Sanofi for US$2.5 billion.

According to the agreement, Adagene will license its core technology to Sanofi and assist it in developing new medicines.

According to industry insiders, the potential transaction value to be seen through such collaboration between the domestic biopharmaceutical enterprise and its partner has set a new record in its field.

Adagene is collaborating with Sanofi on up to four “safe” antibody candidates in oncology as part of its quest to develop immunotherapies that do not attack healthy cells.

Sanofi will be able to apply Adagene’s technology to two of its antibody candidates with the option to tack on two more down the road.

The French pharmaceutical company is only putting up US$17 million in upfront cash, plus potential milestone payments if the candidates advance.

However, Adagene CEO Peter Luo, Ph.D., is confident that the biotech will be able to get the candidates through the clinic and onto the market.

Luo stated unequivocally that he believes his company will begin hitting these milestones almost immediately, as detailed discussions have already taken place to determine what targets might be appropriate for the partnership.

This is Sanofi’s fourth licensing deal in a few months, as the company works to fill the stockroom with early-stage candidates through a flurry of licensing deals.

Adagene has created “SAFEbody” technology, which allows antibodies to bind and activate only in a tumor environment, rather than in healthy cells.

Latest Sanofi’s immunotherapy acquisitions

The Adagene agreement could end up being the largest of the bunch, but in the short term, it lags far behind the US$1 billion upfront payment made to immuno-oncology player Amunix Pharmaceuticals in December 2021.

It’s also the second deal Sanofi has signed for bispecific targets, following a US$75 million upfront deal in January for rights to a Parkinson’s disease drug from South Korea’s ABL Bio.

Adagene’s platform aims to address one of the most common side effects of modern immunotherapy: turning your body’s immune system against cancer cells can result in the death of healthy cells as well.

It’s part of a larger antibody discovery platform that Adagene is using to diversify quickly. More than a dozen companies and organizations, including Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS) and the National Institutes of Health, have already partnered with the company.

The Sanofi agreement is the fourth for the SAFEbody technology.

However, the company also has its own pipeline, which is primarily focused on combination therapies in order to maximize the efficacy of established treatments while maintaining the safety profile of its antibodies.

A phase 1b/2 trial of lead candidate ADG106 in combination with BMS’s Opdivo for patients with metastatic non-small cell lung cancer was just launched earlier this year.

AI is powering Adagene’s drug discovery efforts, allowing for quick, early molecule identification. The company claims to have more than 50 programs in the research and development stage.

In the future, Luo says the company will not prioritize the technology and platform for cancers with more readily available treatments in order to increase the value of reducing side effects.

Instead, Adagene intends to provide value in areas where hospital resources are limited, regardless of cancer severity.

With this kind of technology, then you can enable community doctors to apply the drugs safely to the patients,” Luo said.

In February 2021, Adagene entered a similarly backloaded deal with genomic-based drug discovery company Exelixis that included US$780 million in milestone payments. By December, the company had already hit a preclinical milestone that triggered US$3 million.

Liked this article? Sign up to receive our regular email newsletters, focused on Africa and World’s healthcare industry, directly into your inbox. SUBSCRIBE HERE