Max Planck Society partners with Sanofi to develop innovative solutions for restoring vision

New collaboration reinforces Sanofi’s translational discovery platform for retinal diseases

September 15, 2011

Max Planck Society (Max-Planck-Gesellschaft), Germany’s leading basic research organization, announced today that it has signed with Fovea Pharmaceuticals, the Ophthalmology Division of Sanofi, a research collaboration and license agreement to identify and develop innovative solutions for restoring vision in patients suffering from diseases affecting the retina.

As part of this 3-year research collaboration agreement, Fovea’s team will work with the Max Planck Institute of Biophysics, based in Frankfurt, Germany, and led by Professor Ernst Bamberg, one of the founding fathers in optogenetics and a pioneer in understanding application of retinal binding channelrhodopsins.

These agreements complement Fovea’s collaborations with first tier academic teams such as the Vision Institute led by Professor José Sahel in Paris, France, and will further advance research on the retinal binding protein channelrhodopsin 2 (ChR2) and its application in retinal diseases. It also marks the commitment of Fovea to accelerate the development of optogenetics as a tool to assess feasibility of converting certain types of retinal cells into photoreceptors. If successful, the research could potentially restore visual function in patients suffering from low vision or blindness.

“We are extremely delighted to partner with an international pharmaceutical company such as Sanofi to further develop and bring to market the Max Planck technology which originated from basic research at Ernst Bamberg’s laboratory almost ten years ago”, said Egenhard Link, Licensing Manager at Max Planck Innovation. “The cooperation is a big step forward to bring the optogenetic approach to the clinics”, added Ernst Bamberg, Director of the Max Planck Institute (MPI) of Biophysics. “This project demonstrates perfectly the famous quote of Max Planck himself: “Knowledge must preceed application”.

Under the terms of this 3-year research collaboration, Max Planck Institute will receive a total of 450,000 euros. Sanofi will be given priority access to the technology, inventions and derived technologies of the Max Planck Institute research activities in ChR2. Under the terms of the license agreement, Max Planck Innovation, the technology transfer organization of the Max Planck Society, will receive a significant upfront payment as well as milestone payments in case of clinical development and commercialization. All such payments could reach a total of 26.4 million euros. Sanofi will be granted exclusive and worldwide rights to the results of the collaboration. In addition, Max Planck Innovation is eligible to receive royalties on sales of products commercialized under the license.

About retinal diseases
Restoration of vision is a major unmet need worldwide. It does concern both patients suffering from genetic diseases affecting the retina (e.g.: Retinitis Pigmentosa, retinal dystrophies, Stargardt Disease) and those affected by a form of retina degeneration such as Aged-related Macular Degeneration (AMD), Diabetic Retinopathy (DR), or Glaucoma. Visual impairment due to retinal degeneration is expected to grow steadily in the coming 10 to 15 years in the Western countries as well as in populated emerging countries (China and India). One of the main causes is the increasing impact of diabetes epidemiology and continuously aging population. In the United States and Europe, 40 million people suffer from AMD, of which 10 per cent are legally blind.

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