Regeneron Pharmaceuticals received a boost yesterday after Sanofi-aventis said it would be returning the rights to develop the former’s experimental compound known as vascular endothelial growth factor trap, in eye disease, but would continue to investigate the product in the field of cancer.

The two companies say they will evaluate VEGF Trap in a variety of cancer types, both in single-agent studies and in combination with chemotherapy. The product is currently undergoing Phase I testing in patients with solid tumors and non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas.

The deal was originally signed back in September 2003 between Aventis, which was taken over by Sanofi last year [[23/08/04c]], and Regeneron [[09/09/03c]]. At the time, the Franco-German firm agreed to pay some $510 million to jointly develop VEGF Trap in oncology, ophthalmology, and possibly in other indications.

The US firm’s share price rose by more than 6% on the Nasdaq yesterday on the news, which also brings with it a $25 million-dollar one-time payment – 50% of which is repayable once the VEGF Trap is commercialised.

- Meanwhile, Sanofi says that it is officially changing the name of the vaccines division it acquired through last year’s purchase of Franco-German company, Aventis, from Aventis Pasteur to Sanofi Pasteur. The French company says that the proposal was backed by shareholders at a meeting held late in December, and that the Aventis Pasteur MSD joint venture, equally owned by Aventis Pasteur and Merck & Co, which markets vaccines in Europe, will now be known as Sanofi Pasteur MSD.