Sanofi exec jumps to Owkin to ramp up biotech AI drug partnership plans

As CEO of Sanofi’s Commercial Partnership, Alban de La Sablière has led the pharmaceutical giant’s collaboration talks with several companies, including $30 billion in acquisitions in the past six years. Now he moves to the other end of the table. He took De La Sablière a new center at Owkin AI, one of the partners he helped secure for Sanofi in his previous role.

As chief business officer of Owkin, De La Sablière will look for more major pharmaceutical alliances with his new employer. The move comes at a transitional time for Okene, which operates dual headquarters in Paris and New York. The company is expanding beyond its initial work of using AI technology to help major companies discover and develop new drugs. Its strategy now includes developing its own pipeline of new products.

“I am really excited about how AI will impact the future of drug discovery and development,” said de la Sabliere. “It was very good [a job] to pass. The people who lead this revolution tend to expand or start [companies]. “

Owkin, founded in 2016, adopts a “unified learning” approach to data analysis. The company cooperates with institutions and organizations that provide access to its data. The data remains in the institutions but the company deploys its machine learning algorithms on those sites to identify diseases. When they have finished learning from one of the sites, they can return to a central site or repost to another site to learn more. This approach enables researchers to collaborate without having to collect all the data together in one place.

Okene’s early partners were cancer treatment centers and hospitals. The company eventually expanded its partnership to include pharmaceutical companies. Under the Sanofi partnership announced nearly a year ago, the pharmaceutical giant committed $180 million to the alliance, which is Focus on finding cancer biomarkers that could be potential targets for new cancer drugs. Since then, Okin has signed ADC therapies The deal focused on cancer aimed at identifying biomarkers that predict patient outcomes from cancer treatment.

De La Sablière was not able to discuss non-public information about the partnerships, but overall, he said that being able to work with unique data sets and identify new biomarkers makes a difference. This approach reduces drug discovery time and allows many trials to be run in parallel.

“You can move faster because you are more targeted,” he said. “Improving from target to lead candidate is much faster.”

De la Sabliere said Oaken’s focus on cancer is a reflection of the company’s founders. CEO Thomas Cluzel brought his experience and perspective as an oncologist and professor. Head of Science Jill Weinrib’s background is Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning. While Owkin’s business development work has been geared around using the company’s AI platform to help partners advance their drug research, de la Sabliere said the vision from the outset was evolving beyond a fee-for-service business model.

Part of de la Sabliere’s new role will involve finding new pharmaceutical assets that Oaken can develop. De la Sabliere, who led Morgan Stanley’s merger and acquisition practice in France before joining Sanofi in 2016, said these assets could come to Owkin through acquisitions, licensing deals or strategic partnerships with pharmaceutical companies. Last month , The European Union has approved two of Oken’s AI-based cancer diagnosesOne for breast cancer and the other for colorectal cancer.

Oken aims to get past the cancer stage. The company has already begun to look into other therapeutic areas through its partnerships. Announced earlier this year, a multi-year collaboration with Bristol Myers Squibb uses artificial intelligence to come up with more accurate and efficient designs for clinical trials. Cardiovascular disease is the initial focus but partners may expand on other indications in the future. For Oken’s in-house drug research, de la Sabliere said, immunology represents another area of ​​potential expansion.

Oken’s last funding was last year, a The second round (Series B) which valued the company at more than one billion euros and placed it in the “unicorn” region. The evaluation reflects the maturity of Owkin’s technology as well as the growth of the company. With more than 200 employees, de la Sabliere said Oken is no longer a startup.

“It’s not a big company,” he said, “but it’s no longer a small business.”

Photo by Oken

Leave a Comment