Sanofi and ImmuNext have announced an agreement focused on the development of a novel antibody with the potential to treat a range of autoimmune diseases including lupus and multiple sclerosis.

ImmuNext will grant Sanofi an exclusive, worldwide license to develop and commercialise INX-021, a CD40L monoclonal antibody in preclinical development that suppresses the activity of a cellular pathway that is overactive in many autoimmune diseases, as the firm strives to expand its speciality care products.

As per the terms of the deal, both parties will also initiate a research collaboration to support clinical trials of the drug. ImmuNext could bank $500 million in milestone payments, as well as tiered royalties up to double digits on sales of products.

"The immunoregulatory molecule, CD40L, is critical to the progression of a wide spectrum of autoimmune diseases," said Randolph Noelle, co-founder and chief scientific officer of ImmuNext and Professor of Microbiology and Immunology, Geisel School of Medicine, Dartmouth College.

"Antibodies that block the function of CD40L have proven in preclinical models of autoimmunity to be amongst the most effective agents in treating disease. The development of anti-CD40L for the treatment of autoimmune diseases offers a unique opportunity to silence disease progression and offer long-term remission."