Sanofi-Aventis and Exelixis have signed a pact which will see the US oncology expert bank a minimum of $161 million in upfront fees and potentially millions of dollars more.

The agreement will see the French drugmaker get an exclusive worldwide license to two compounds XL147 and XL765, which are in Phase I and IIb/II trials respectively, and collaborate with Exelixis on the discovery of inhibitors of phosphoinositide-3 kinase (PI3K) for the management of solid malignancies. Cashwise, Sanofi will pay Exelixis an upfront cash payment of $140 million and “guaranteed research funding” of $21 million over three years.

Exelixis will also be eligible to receive development, regulatory and commercial milestones of over $1 billion, as well as royalties on sales of any products that come out of the collaboration. Commenting on the deal, Exelixis chief executive George Scangos noted that the data generated to date in the XL147 and XL765 clinical programmes “suggest that these compounds may have utility in treating diverse cancers”.

Sanofi’s head of R&D, Marc Cluzel, said that "this alliance is aligned with our strategy to create value through strategic partnerships that deliver new therapeutic options”. He added that the firm is excited about integrating “such novel targeted therapies with high therapeutic potential in our portfolio”.

Sanofi gets seed strains for swine flu
Meantime, the Paris-headquartered group’s vaccines unit has received the new influenza A(H1N1) seed virus, enabling it to begin the production process for a swine flu vaccine.

Sanofi Pasteur said that the “passaging process” to yield a “working seed” will take about two weeks. Industrial production will begin “as soon as directed by public health agencies.”

Earlier this week, the company won a $190 million order from the US government to make a swine-flu vaccine.