Sanofi-Aventis is linking up with Kyowa Hakko Kirin to develop the Japanese drugmaker's monoclonal antibody for inflammatory diseases.

The agreement covers Kyowa Hakko’s anti-LIGHT fully human monoclonal antibody which is at the preclinical stage, and if the compound meets all its development milestones, Sanofi could pay out up to $315 million, including an undisclosed upfront fee. Kyowa Hakko will also receive royalties and retain rights to the product in Japan and the rest of Asia.

Sanofi said that the anti-LIGHT antibody is expected to be the first in class in ulcerative colitis and in Crohn's disease. The compound may also be developed in further indications such as rheumatoid arthritis. The French drugmaker’s head of research, Marc Cluzel, said that “there are very important breakthroughs in the field of inflammation like anti-TNFs but unfortunately not all patients benefit from these new therapies. Anti-LIGHT antibody may represent an alternative therapy for those patients”.

The LIGHT molecule was discovered by the La Jolla Institute of Allergy and Immunology, and the antibody against LIGHT in collaboration with Kyowa Hakko.

New dengue fever vaccine facility
News of the deal comes a couple of days after Sanofi announced that it has started construction of a new vaccine production facility in Neuville-sur-Saone, Lyon. The unit, which will cost 350 million euros, will produce 100 million doses of the company’s investigational vaccine against dengue fever and is expected to be operational in 2013.

Sanofi chief executive Chris Viehbacher said that with this new plant, the firm will have invested (in France) over 1 billion euros since 2005 in vaccine production.