Sanofi-aventis signs licensing deal with Ascenta

Ascenta could receive milestone payments of US$398m

Ascenta Therapeutics has signed a licensing agreement with French drugmaker sanofi-aventis, covering several early-stage agents being investigated for their potential to restore tumour cell apoptosis (programmed cell death). These small-molecule drug candidates that would be taken orally, inhibit the interaction between HDM2 (Human Double Minute 2) and p53, removing a block to normal p53 tumour suppressor function and potentially enhancing cancer control and treatment.

Sanofi-aventis gains exclusive worldwide rights to develop, manufacture and commercialise all compounds issued from this programme.

US biopharmaceutical firm Ascenta will receive an upfront payment and is eligible to receive milestone payments that could reach US$398m. Ascenta is also eligible to receive tiered royalties on any eventual sales.

The agreement includes two agents previously in-licensed by Ascenta from the University of Michigan, MI-773 and MI-519-64, which are expected to enter preclinical development this year. Ascenta and sanofi-aventis will continue to fund research on these targets at the University of Michigan. Ascenta may also participate in ongoing research activities and potential future clinical development.

‘Restoring tumour suppressor function through the inhibition of the HDM2-p53 interaction offers the potential to control and prevent cancer progression,’ said Mel Sorensen, chief executive of Ascenta. ‘We are delighted to have sanofi-aventis join us and the University of Michigan in this endeavour to turn exciting science into novel cancer medicines.’