Sanofi-Aventis has gone shopping again this morning and licensed a mid-stage diabetes drug from the USA’s Wellstat Therapeutics.

The French drugmaker has been granted an exclusive worldwide licence to develop, manufacture and commercialise PN2034, a first-in-class oral insulin sensitiser which is currently in Phase II trials to reverse insulin resistance in the liver of diabetic patients. Under the terms of the deal, privately-owned Wellstat will receive an undisclosed upfront cash payment and is eligible for development and regulatory milestone payments that could reach $350 million. It will also get “substantial payments when specified commercial milestones are met”, plus royalties.

Marc Cuzel, head of R&D at Sanofi, said that PN2034 “will allow us to complement our diabetes portfolio with an innovative insulin sensitiser for oral therapy”. That portfolio is presently led by Lantus (insulin glargine) and recently unveiled plans for a major research programme which will look at any potential link between insulin treatments, notably Lantus, and cancer.

The Wellstat link-up comes a couple of weeks after Sanofi agreed to buy French eye disease specialist Fovea and licensed Merrimack Pharmaceuticals’ MM-121, a human monoclonal antibody which is Phase I trials seeking to target solid tumours.