Sanofi has deepened its relationship with the Geneva-based Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi), entering into a three-year collaboration agreement with DNDi for research into new treatments for nine neglected tropical diseases (NTDs).

The agreement, which includes co-ownership of intellectual property rights generated by the collaboration, targets NTDs identified by the World Health Organization as in urgent need of new, adapted and efficient tools to treat affected patients in endemic countries.

They are kinetoplastid diseases (leishmaniases, Chagas disease and human African trypanosomiasis); helminth infections (lymphatic filariasis, onchocerciasis and soil-transmitted helminthiasis); and dracunculiasis, fascioliasis and schistosomiasis.

Initially, Sanofi will bring molecules from its compound libraries into the partnership, while the two partners will collaborate on research activities addressing innovative molecular scaffolds.  

IP innovation

The “innovative management” of intellectual property rights is at the core of the agreement, Sanofi and DNDi noted.

Rights to any outcomes of the partnership will be co-owned by Sanofi and DNDi, which also said they would facilitate publication of results “to ensure access to the wider community of researchers focusing on NTDs”.

As such, the public sector “will benefit from the drugs developed through this agreement under the best possible conditions to ease access for patients in all endemic countries, irrespective of their level of economic development”, Sanofi and DNDi stated.

Sanofi previously set aside any patent rights when it tied up with DNDi to develop a two-layer artesunate-amodiaquine (ASAQ) tablet for malaria.

“In this new research collaboration with DNDi, we have taken a firm step towards greater flexibility in the sharing of knowledge to produce new medicines,” commented Dr Elias Zerhouni, Sanofi’s president, Global Research & Development.

Dr Bernard Pécoul, executive director of DNDi, described the agreement as “a major milestone in our access to molecules that can help combat neglected diseases”.

“We believe that this level of private-sector involvement in open-research collaboration to deliver appropriate medicines as public goods is vital to addressing the needs of the most vulnerable populations of the world,” Pécoul added.

Prior history

Sanofi signed its ASAQ development agreement with the DNDi Foundation in April 2005. The fixed-dose combination is now available in malaria-endemic areas of sub-Saharan Africa and other countries such as India.

In May 2009 DNDi and Sanofi announced an agreement to develop, manufacture and distribute on a non-profit basis fexinidazole, a drug candidate for the treatment of human African trypanosomiasis or sleeping sickness.