The agreed acquisition will add Ablynx’s phase III thrombosis antibody-fragment candidate caplacizumab to Sanofi’s pipeline, as well as adding a single-domain antibody – or ‘Nanobody’ – technology to its capabilities.
Sanofi is one of a number of large biopharma firms to have inked licensing deals over the platform, paying Ablynx €23m last July for access to selected nanobody candidates targeting immune-mediated inflammatory diseases.
Others include AbbVie, Boehringer Ingelheim, Merck & Co. (known as MSD outside of North America), Merck Serono, Novartis and Novo Nordisk which has been attempting to acquire Ablynx itself for several months.
Earlier this month, Ablynx rebuffed a €2.6bn offer from the Danish drugmaker, with CEO Edwin Moses saying: “Unsolicited conditional proposal is not in the best interests of the Company.”
But speaking on the Sanofi agreement, Moses said the French pharma giant’s “global infrastructure, commitment to innovation and commercial capabilities will accelerate our ability to deliver our pipeline.”
If the deal closes, Sanofi said it will maintain and support Ablynx’s science centre in Ghent, Belgium.
The news comes a week after Sanofi agreed to pay $11.6bn for Biogen spin-out Bioverativ.
As their name suggests, Nanobodies are similar to antibodies, but considerably smaller, being based on antibodies found in camelidae - camels and llamas – which lack the light chain domains present in conventional molecules and instead consist only of the heavy chains and a single variable region.
According to Ablynx their small size means Nanobodies can bind multiple therapeutic targets, including those that cannot be accessed by conventional antibodies. The firm also says nanobodies can be delivered via a wider range of routes – including inhalation.
Ablynx’s lead candidate caplacizumab for the treatment of acquired thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (aTTP) is filed in the EU and expected to be filed in the US during the first half of this year.
Sanofi will also add a Phase II inhaled Nanobody, ALX-0171, as a potential treatment of RSV infections.