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Cubist jumps on to Heptares' growing GPCR bandwagon

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The drug discovery team at Heptares Therapeutics landed in San Francisco today with news of yet another development pact with a well-known biopharma player. This time it's Boston, MA-based Cubist Pharmaceuticals ($CBST), which has jumped on the Heptares platform to find new drugs targeting G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs).

Heptares is pocketing a $5 million upfront payment and $4 million in research support for its work on Cubist's first, undisclosed, target. There's an undisclosed package of biobucks for milestone payments and a shot at a second target if Cubist picks up the option. The potential money to be scored in that deal was also kept under wraps.     

Welwyn Garden City, U.K.-based Heptares--a 2009 Fierce 15 company--has been burnishing its reputation as a leader in the GPCR field for several years now, boasting that its structure-based design expertise can be used to go after some hard-to-hit GPCR targets. After starting off with about 20 staffers, the biotech's employee roster has now swelled to about 60, with dozens of outside contractors scattered around the globe offering additional input for its programs. Just last March the biotech announced a $190 million licensing deal with Shire ($SHPG) for a preclinical compound targeting CNS diseases. That deal followed discovery pacts with Takeda, AstraZeneca ($AZN), MedImmune and the Novartis Option Fund.

"I think what we've shown here is the ability to do good deals based upon the platform," Heptares CEO Malcolm Weir tells FierceBiotech. This latest pact was put together by a busy business development team, and Weir says the company is following up on more pacts.

"We certainly will do more deals," says the CEO, who expects to see Heptares' first internal program enter the clinic later this year. "There are an awful lot of GPCRs out there," and Heptares can't do them all by itself. "In terms of planning new deals, we are constantly talking to companies."

- here's the press release

Special Report: Heptares Therapeutics - 2009 Fierce 15

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