Chemoproteomics company Belharra Therapeutics and Sanofi have entered into a drug discovery collaboration deal worth up to nearly $700m.

Belharra Therapeutics focuses on the transformation of small-molecule drug discovery by revealing binding pockets on elusive, high-value drug targets across the proteome.

Under the partnership, the California-based firm along with Sanofi will advance the discovery of novel small-molecule therapeutics for immunological diseases.

The collaboration will use Belharra Therapeutics’ proprietary non-covalent chemoproteomics platform to evaluate and confirm potential candidates against undisclosed immunology targets designated by Sanofi.  

Belharra Therapeutics is eligible to earn up to $40m in upfront and near-term milestone payments.

The company also stands to earn from payments contingent on research, development, and commercial milestones, in addition to tiered royalties based on net sales.

Sanofi will lead the further preclinical, clinical, and commercial activities of selected candidates.

Belharra Therapeutics CEO Jeff Jonker said: “We look forward to combining the powerful capabilities of Belharra’s next-generation chemotherapeutics platform with Sanofi’s vast expertise in immunology research and development as we work together toward discovering new therapeutics for challenging-to-treat diseases.

“With the ability to illuminate any pocket, on any protein, in any cell type, our platform enables perhaps the broadest and most unbiased chemoproteomic screening capabilities in the industry.”

Belharra Therapeutics’ platform offers chemoproteomic screening capabilities using a computationally designed library of non-covalent, drug-like molecules.

These molecules employ photoaffinity chemistry to detect both the proteins that bind them and their exact binding sites on the target proteins, all within a native cellular environment.

Furthermore, all screens are performed in a native cellular environment.

By using this approach, Belharra Therapeutics can elucidate binding pockets across any protein or protein-protein interaction in various cell types.  

The chemoproteomics company said that these insights are crucial for discovering new drugs for well-validated but elusive protein targets as well as novel drug targets.

Sanofi immunology and inflammation research global head John Bertin said: “Our collaboration with Belharra demonstrates our efforts to build on our achievements in delivering first-in-class treatments for chronic inflammatory diseases by pushing the science of immunology further to advance new therapeutics that could change patients’ lives.”

In December last year, Sanofi signed a multi-year collaboration deal worth $140m with pharmatech company AQEMIA for expediting the discovery of small molecules across several therapeutic areas.