Sanofi-Aventis has once again hit the acquisition trail and has this morning revealed it has agreed to purchase privately-held US biopharmaceutical company TargeGen, a cancer specialist.

TargeGen, which is developing small molecule kinase inhibitors for the treatment of certain forms of leukaemia, lymphoma and other haematological malignancies and blood disorders, will receive an upfront fee of $75 million. Further milestone payments, principally based on the development of the San Diego-based firm’s lead product TG 101348, could take the value of the deal up to $560 million. The closing of the transaction is expected to occur in the third quarter.

TG 101348 is a potent inhibitor of Janus kinase-2, an oral agent being developed for the treatment of patients with myeloproliferative diseases including myelofibrosis, a chronic and progressive disorder in which there is a proliferation of certain cells of the bone marrow. The compound has completed a Phase I/II trial in patients with MF and additional studies are planned to start in the second half of 2010.

Besides MF, Sanofi says that TG 101348 could be effective in a variety of other haematological malignancies, such as polycythemia vera, a blood disorder in which the bone marrow produces too many red blood cells. Currently, there are no approved or adequately effective therapies to treat these diseases called myeloproliferative neoplasms that affect around 400,000 patients in the USA and Europe.

Marc Cluzel, head of R&D at Sanofi said that the TargeGen buy “represents a further significant step to increase our engagement in the field of haematological malignancies”. The Paris-headquartered firm has highlighted oncology as a core area and earlier this month signed a pact with Ascenta Therapeutics to develop compounds that could restore tumour cell apoptosis and inhibit the p53-HDM2 protein-protein interaction.