Sanofi-Aventis signs $398-million cancer drug license deal with Ascenta Therapeutics

French drugmaker Sanofi-Aventis today said that it has signed an exclusive global collaboration and licensing agreement worth up to $398 million with Ascenta Therapeutics, a US-based biotech firm for rights to experimental cancer compounds.

Under the terms of the deal, Sanofi-Aventis will receive an exclusive worldwide license to develop, manufacture and commercialise all compounds issued from this program. Two compounds, MI-773 and MI-519-64, are currently expected to enter preclinical development in 2010.

Ascenta, a privately-held, clinical stage biopharmaceutical company that focuses on the discovery and development cancer drugs, has in-licensed those compounds from the University of Michigan.

Ascenta's current focus is a portfolio of novel, orally-active, small molecule drugs that restore the natural potential for cancer cells to undergo cell death (apoptosis).

Both Sanofi-Aventis and Ascenta will provide funding for the ongoing research of p53-HDM2 inhibitors at the University of Michigan and Ascenta may participate in ongoing research activities and potential future clinical development.

Ascenta will receive an upfront payment of up to $398 million as well as development, regulatory and commercial milestone payments as well as tiered royalties on worldwide product sales.

''This new partnership continues to illustrate Sanofi-Aventis' commitment to develop innovative targeted therapies in Oncology,'' said Debasish Roychowdhury, M D, senior vice president, Global Oncology of Sanofi-Aventis.

''The inhibition of protein-protein interaction is always a challenge in discovery, and the finding of potent and selective compounds could offer an attractive new therapeutic approach for cancer patients. This approach is perfectly in line with the company's strategy to find new drugs focused on patient specific needs,'' he added.