BioWorld International Correspondent

PARIS - Genfit renewed two of its strategic research collaborations, one with Sanofi-Aventis, of Paris, and one with Solvay, of Brussels, Belgium.

Genfit, of Lille, France, is developing drugs to treat cardiovascular, inflammatory and metabolic diseases, and both these collaborations are aimed at identifying and developing new treatments for cardiometabolic disease and its different indications.

In the case of Sanofi-Aventis, this is the third renewal of the collaboration which the two companies originally entered in 1999, and it now has been extended to December 2008.

Their joint research is focused on the pharmacological characterization of Sanofi-Aventis' drug candidates and the selection of those that best act on an innovative target involved in metabolic and inflammatory mechanisms. In addition, they have embarked on a new program based on a new target involved in inflammatory diseases.

Under the collaboration, Genfit has received several milestone payments linked to the clinical development of drug candidates, as well as annual research and development funding. In effect, Sanofi-Aventis has three products arising from its collaboration with Genfit in clinical development, two of which are in Phase II trials. According to the Jean-Francois Mouney, chairman and CEO of Genfit, one is in a therapeutic field not originally envisioned by the collaboration, namely central nervous system diseases. The company also will receive royalties on the sale of any drugs brought to market.

Genfit entered into its collaboration with Solvay in 2002, and that now has been renewed for a three-year period to December 2009. The collaboration will continue to focus on compounds already selected, which include first-in-class products - those acting on a completely new target - which are currently in preclinical development at Solvay.

Mouney told BioWorld International that Solvay was due to initiate a Phase I trial within the next few months of the first product to emanate from its collaboration with Genfit.

In addition, the two companies are embarking on a new research program involving the validation of a highly innovative new target and the selection of additional development candidates. As a result, Mouney said, Genfit had received an up-front payment for the start of that new program, and would continue to receive annual R&D funding and milestones, as well as possible royalties on future sales.

While declining to give details about the financial arrangements in those collaborations, Mouney indicated that Genfit's six research collaborations with big pharma generated R&D funding of €12 million to €13 million (US$15.8 million to $17.3 million) a year for the company.

The technology that Genfit brings to those collaborations includes genomic analysis, proteomics, pharmacology and screening, as well as tools centered on nuclear receptors such as the SNuRMs (selective nuclear receptor modulators) platform.

In the case of its collaboration with Solvay, Genfit said the initial objective was to identify and develop new selective nuclear receptor modulators playing a key role in the metabolism of lipoproteins and the formation of atherosclerosis. It thus brought to bear its expertise in nuclear receptors and its know-how in relevant models of reverse transport of cholesterol and atherosclerosis.

Genfit also has provided innovative molecular strategies, derived in particular from its SnuRMS platform, and directed approaches to mutagenesis. The company pointed out that its co-founders were among the first to demonstrate the essential role of nuclear receptors, particularly PPAR receptors, in the control of the metabolism of cholesterol, lipids and glucose.

Genfit also is engaged in an in-house drug discovery program and has two drug candidates in clinical development: GFT14, which is being developed to combat cardiometabolic risk and entered Phase II trials in May 2006 after completing a Phase I trial in 2005; and GFT505, a multimodal compound designed to treat several cardiovascular and metabolic risk factors simultaneously, which entered Phase I clinical development in September. The results of both trials are expected toward the middle of 2007.

Genfit obtained a listing on the Alternext market of the Euronext stock exchange in Paris last December.