Sanofi Seeks Regional Alliances to Bulk Up Diabetes Offering

Sanofi, the maker of the blockbuster insulin Lantus, is on the lookout for country-by-country alliances to bulk up its diabetes product offering.

The French drugmaker won’t make “a big-bang alliance with one big company,” Pierre Chancel, who heads Sanofi’s diabetes unit, said in an interview. Instead, Chancel plans to “complete our portfolio” in ways that may vary “depending on the geography and the opportunity.”

Some companies have already joined forces to gain critical mass in diabetes, a global market worth about $40 billion. Eli Lilly & Co. and Germany’s Boehringer Ingelheim GmbH struck a deal in 2011 to work together on diabetes drugs. Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., headquartered in New York, and London-based AstraZeneca Plc also are partners.

Sanofi’s stand-alone strategy is largely focused on Lantus, which last year amassed 4.96 billion euros ($6.7 billion) in sales and whose patent will expire in 2015. The Paris-based company’s diabetes pipeline includes a new-generation Lantus, dubbed U-300, and a medicine that mimics the function of a digestive hormone to stimulate the pancreas to produce insulin after meals, called Lyxumia. The drugmaker doesn’t have medicines belonging to some of the pharmaceutical industry’s latest drug classes, for example an SGLT-2 inhibitor, which diabetics tend to take in the earlier phases of the disease.

Paris-based Sanofi is seeking medicines from such categories, including so-called SGLT-2 and DPP-4 inhibitors, in specific areas of the world, Chancel said in a telephone interview late yesterday.

More Agreements

The diabetes market may be worth more than $58 billion by 2018, according to Standard & Poor’s. Sedentary lifestyles and obesity are swelling the ranks of patients with type 2 diabetes, a chronic form of the disease in which the body becomes resistant to insulin or doesn’t make enough of the hormone to manage the level of sugar in the blood.

Sanofi has already signed agreements for specific products in certain countries and is putting more in place, Chancel said, speaking from Barcelona, where he is attending the European Association for the Study of Diabetes conference.

Earlier this year, the French company formed a partnership with Japan’s Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. to sell the DPP-4 inhibitor alogliptin in China. Last year it entered a licensing agreement with Chugai Pharmaceutical Co. and Kowa Co. for the SGLT-2 inhibitor tofogliflozin.

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