Lead Pharma, a pharmaceutical company developing innovative medicines for the treatment of autoimmune diseases and cancer, announced that it has achieved a second milestone under its research collaboration with Sanofi, triggering an undisclosed milestone payment. The collaboration aims to develop small molecules directed against the nuclear hormone receptor ROR gamma (t) for the treatment of a broad range of autoimmune disorders.

A wide range of human diseases are driven by deregulated immune function. These immune-mediated disorders include joint diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel diseases such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. Often, these diseases are characterized by inappropriate activation of molecules termed cytokines, which are important mediators of normal immune function. When inappropriately activated, these powerful molecules can cause severe damage to multiple body systems.

In February 2015, Lead Pharma and Sanofi announced a research collaboration and licensing agreement to discover, develop and commercialize small molecule therapies directed against ROR gamma (t), a key regulator of the cytokine immune. Recent findings have demonstrated that the biological function of ROR gamma (t) can be moderated with small molecules and have advanced this target to the cutting edge of drug discovery.

The current milestone payment follows an upfront cash payment at the start of the collaboration and a first milestone payment in November 2015. Lead Pharma is eligible to receive further milestone payments and entitled to receive royalty payments on global sales from any resulting products.

“We are delighted to have achieved a second milestone in our collaboration with Sanofi within two years after the start of the collaboration,” said Ad van Gorp, co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Lead Pharma. “The excellent and very pleasant interaction between the highly motivated and experienced teams of Sanofi and Lead Pharma has brought the collaboration a step closer to treating patients suffering with autoimmune disorders.”

“Immunology is a priority therapeutic area for Sanofi as we work to develop innovative medicines to meet the significant unmet need of people living with autoimmune diseases,” said Frank Nestle, Head of Immunology & Inflammation Research Therapeutic Area, Sanofi. “We value our collaboration with Lead Pharma and are delighted to see rapid progress being made in this novel small molecule research programme.”