Sanofi to acquire immuno-oncology company Synthorx for $2.5B

A French drugmaker is putting down $2.5 billion to acquire a U.S. biotech developing immunotherapies in oncology and rheumatology.

Paris-based Sanofi said Monday it would acquire San Diego-based Synthorx. Shares of the biotech company were up 169% on the Nasdaq when markets opened following the news.

Synthorx’s lead drug candidate is THOR-707, an IL-2 therapeutic that it has in development both as a single agent and in combination with immune checkpoint inhibitors, with a Phase I/II clinical trial ongoing. The company has recently presented preclinical data that it said bolsters the case for the drug.

Marketed checkpoint inhibitors include Merck & Co.’s Keytruda (pembrolizumab) and AstraZeneca’s Imfinzi (durvalumab), among others. IL-2, which stands for interleukin-2, is a protein made by white blood cells that promotes the growth and activity of other white blood cells. Sanofi touted THOR-707 as having potential to demonstrate improved pharmacology, less frequent dosing and therapeutic superiority to other IL-2 compounds.

“Synthorx’s exceptionally novel discovery platform has already produced a molecule that has the potential to become a foundation of the next generation of immuno-oncology combination therapies,” Sanofi global head of research and development John Reed said in a statement. “By selectively expanding the numbers of effector T-cells and natural killer cells in the body, THOR-707 can be combined with our current oncology medicines and our emerging pipeline of immuno-modulatory agents for treating cancer. Moreover, Synthorx’s pipeline of engineered lymphokines has great promise not only for oncology but also for addressing many autoimmune and inflammatory diseases.”

Several other companies are also developing IL-2 therapeutics. These include San Francisco-based Nektar Therapeutics, whose drug bempegaldesleukin is in Phase III development. Others include Toronto-based Medicenna, Houston-based Courier Therapeutics and Concord, Massachusetts-based Alopexx Oncology.

In addition to existing clinical development and preclinical data for THOR-707, Synthorx recently presented preclinical data for another IL-2 drug, THOR-809, at the American College of Rheumatology’s meeting in November. The company is developing that drug as a potential treatment for autoimmune disorders.



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