• Companies to work on 12 possible drug targets over five years
  • Sanofi to pay over $50 million at first, take stake in Dice

Sanofi may pay Dice Molecules as much as $2.3 billion as France’s largest drugmaker looks to make pills work in place of injections for some diseases.

Sanofi agreed to pay Dice more than $50 million initially to get exclusive access to some of its technology and take an equity stake in the closely held company, which uses smaller chemicals to mimic the effect of drugs that require injections or infusions, according to a statement Wednesday. The companies will work on 12 potential drug targets over five years. Dice stands to get as much as $184 million for each candidate if it meets certain development goals, such as key clinical milestones or a regulatory submission.

Dice aims to make pills that can work in the same fashion as antibodies, large proteins that companies make by splicing genes into cells and turning them into drug factories. But because antibodies are so large and complex, they often need to be kept at low temperatures and given by injection, constraints small molecules such as Dice’s might avoid.

"It’s the first time that one is able to build very large libraries with billions of molecules" and screen them closely for protein targets that can fight disease, said Kathy Bowdish, head of Sanofi’s Sunrise venture capital arm. She said the targets include some that have injectable drugs and some that are untreated. The main areas they’re focused on are cancer, heart disease, rare diseases and diabetes, she said.

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