MMV Project of the Year 2017 awarded to Sanofi

Award for discovery of new antimalarial molecule presented at meeting of MMV’s ESAC

10 Jul 2018

At this year’s first key meeting of MMV’s Expert Scientific Advisory Committee (ESAC) hosted in Geneva in July, the discovery team led by Dr Alain Pellet, Sanofi, and Dr Didier Leroy, MMV, was presented with MMV’s 2017 Project of the Year award for the identification and development of SAR441121 (or SAR121). The team applied a smart approach to screening guided by biology, which led to the accelerated discovery of this promising molecule.

SAR121, the first antimalarial candidate molecule to be delivered by the team, kills the malaria parasite very quickly, and so may also rapidly reduce malaria symptoms. It has been very difficult to generate parasites that are resistant to SAR121 in the laboratory, which, if replicated in a real-world setting, means the molecule could be one of our strongest weapons in combatting parasite resistance.

The current focus of the team is to show that the molecule is sufficiently well tolerated to be tested in humans. The goal will then be to test it initially in human volunteer infection studies in 2018. In addition, the team is working to identify the best partner molecule for a combination therapy.

“We feel honoured to receive this recognition, which extends beyond the immediate team,” said Dr Alain Pellet. “This project was also recognized by Sanofi as one of the best R&D projects of 2017. I personally feel very proud, as combatting malaria was a motivation for me when I joined the pharmaceutical industry.”

“This molecule is the result of a long-standing collaboration between Sanofi and MMV,” said Dr Didier Leroy. “I am extremely pleased to have contributed to its discovery, and now to see the molecule being moved forward to trials in humans.”

The MMV Project of the Year award is an internal MMV award, established in 2001 to recognise the most exciting drug discovery and development projects in the MMV portfolio and applaud the scientific partners involved. The winning project is selected by MMV’s independent ESAC at the end of each year.

 → Go to an interview with Dr Alain Pellet, Pharmaceutical Chemistry Team Leader, Sanofi and Dr Didier Leroy, Senior Director, Drug Discovery, MMV. They talk about the partnership and the exciting features of the antimalarial compound SAR121.