Sanofi-Aventis has signed a deal with the USA’s Alopexx Pharmaceuticals that would give it access to a first-in-class human monoclonal antibody targeted against serious infectious diseases.

The collaboration centres around this new antibody, which is in preclinical development and is being studied for the prevention and treatment of methicillin-resistant S aureus (MRSA), E coli and Y pestis (the bacterium that causes plague) and other serious infections. Under the terms of the agreement, Alopexx will bring the product into Phase I trials during 2010, at which point Sanofi has an option to license.

Upfront fees and R&D funding, plus regulatory and commercial milestone payments, could reach $375 million, plus royalties. Sanofi’s research chief Marc Cluzel said that the emergence of antibiotic resistant infections “is and remains an unmet medical need” and this promising product “could become, if developed to its full potential, a key driver of our company’s anti-infective portfolio”.

Caltech deal
As well as the Alopexx link-up, Sanofi has entered into a strategic alliance with the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena.

The collaboration, the French drugmaker says, will involve basic and applied biology research and “promote scientific exchange”. Dr Cluzel said the pact will “significantly complement our research technologies and is a renewed example to partnership with best sciences”.

The programme will provide undisclosed financial support for “several core facilities” located at Caltech for up to five years.

Dengue programme expanded
Meantime, the company’s Sanofi Pasteur vaccines division is expanding its dengue fever programme in Latin America with a new multicentre study in children and adolescent in Mexico, Colombia, Honduras and Puerto Rico.

Currently, there is no specific treatment available against dengue fever, the most widespread tropical disease after malaria. Latin America was considered almost free of dengue in the 1960s but since then, urbanisation and travel have contributed to the fast re-emergence of the disease.