Sanofi bags oral rival to Novartis' injectable blockbuster Cosentyx

Sanofi has licensed an oral IL-17A inhibitor from C4X Discovery. The deal positions Sanofi to deliver an oral alternative to injectable anti-IL-17 antibodies such as Novartis' Cosentyx and Eli Lilly’s Taltz.

Cosentyx has become Novartis’ best-selling drug, racking up sales of $4 billion last year, due to its ability to improve outcomes in patients with conditions including plaque psoriasis, psoriatic arthritis and active ankylosing spondylitis. Patients can self-inject the monoclonal antibody but some people may prefer an oral option to the monthly maintenance doses of Cosentyx.

That thinking has led Sanofi to secure the global rights to C4XD’s oral IL-17A inhibitor program. Sanofi is paying €7 million ($8.4 million) upfront and committing to up to €407 million in milestones for the rights to the preclinical program.

C4XD said in vivo studies show the drug can selectively block IL-17 activity and has a molecular size in the range typically suitable for oral administration. The British biotech discovered the molecule using its Conformetrix technology platform, which enables it to measure dynamic 3D shapes of free drug molecules.

C4XD CEO Clive Dix, Ph.D., explained the significance of the discovery. “While antibody therapies have demonstrated the potential of IL-17 inhibition in the generation of highly effective treatments, the injectable route means many patients currently do not have access to the medicines that can change their lives,” Dix said in a statement. “We believe that our small molecule program has the potential to create high value, efficacious and convenient oral IL-17 therapeutics for this large market.”

Sanofi will continue to work with C4XD to access the Conformetrix technology as it moves the drug toward the clinic. The preclinical stage of development is worth up to €11 million in milestones to C4XD.