Sanofi-Aventis is adding to its vaccines arm Sanofi Pasteur with the purchase of private US biotechnology group VaxDesign in a deal worth around $60 million.

The French drugmaker said yesterday that it has entered into a binding agreement to buy the firm, which makes and sells in vitro models of the human immune system, for an upfront fee of $55 million and an extra $5 million on completion of an undisclosed “development step”. 

Sanofi’s interest in VaxiDesign was ignited by the firm’s Modular IMmune In-vitro Construct (MIMIC) technology, which binds immunology and engineering together to address complex biological problems.

The platform captures genetic and environmental diversity and based on data generated in a surrogate human immune system, and so is able to speed up and optimise candidate selection and remove the need for animal models before human clinical trials.

According to Sanofi, MIMIC will be of great value in the assessment of its vaccine candidate, by providing “a key ‘filter’ in the preclinical stage for a ‘go/no go’ decision-making process before Phase I human clinical trials”.

Competitive advantage

Further explaining the strategy behind the VaxDesign buy, Michel DeWilde, senior vice president of research and development at Sanofi Pasteur, said its MIMIC platform is the most advanced in the field and will provide a competitive advantage in the development of vaccines.

“With this novel model for understanding mechanisms of action, the probability of clinical success increases and the time to market should decrease,” he said, and added that the platform successfully reproduced the group’s own clinical data “and is adaptable for the evaluation of multiple diseases and corresponding patient populations”.

The deal is expected to close by the end of the year.