French drugmaker Sanofi-Aventis and US group Regeneron Pharmaceuticals have extended their global partnership to discover, develop, and commercialise fully-human therapeutic monoclonal antibodies.

Following a successful couple of years since the original agreement was signed in 2007, Sanofi has decided to sink a further $60 million a year into the collaboration to extend it by five years to 2017 - bringing its total annual funding to $160 million - and still holds an option to extend the deal for a further three years.

Terms of the original deal remain unchanged. Sanofi-aventis has the exclusive option to co-develop each antibody drug candidate and development costs will be shared. If any products make it to market, then Paris, France-headquartered group will take the lead in commercialisation and consolidate sales, but Regeneron has a co-promotion right and is entitled to receive up to a total of $250 million of sales milestone payments on certain aggregate annual ex-US sales levels, kicking off at $1 billion.

The alliance aims to take an average of four to five antibodies into clinical development every year, and since its formation in November 2007 Regeneron and sanofi-aventis have pushed four therapeutic antibodies into clinical development and have filed an IND for a fifth, targeting rheumatoid arthritis, the treatment of pain, advanced malignancies and other undisclosed targets.

“The expansion of our collaboration provides even greater resources over a longer time horizon and will boost our efforts to build a deep pipeline of new human antibody product candidates,” said Leonard Schleifer, President and Chief Executive Officer of Regeneron, explaining the reasons behind the move.

And Marc Cluzel, Executive Vice President of R&D at sanofi-aventis, said the extension of the deal shows the group’s commitment to becoming “a key player” in the monoclonal antibody arena, and will “further fuel our product pipeline and allow us to bring multiple antibody product candidates into the clinic, thereby significantly increasing the chance of providing patients access to innovative drugs in various therapeutic areas”.