Heptares adds Daiichi pain pact to string of R&D deals

Daiichi Sankyo
Daiichi joins Allergan, AstraZeneca and Pfizer on Heptares' list of collaborators

Heptares Therapeutics has struck a pain drug R&D pact with Daiichi Sankyo. The agreement will see Heptares apply the G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) and structure-based drug design skills that have landed it deals with Allergan, AstraZeneca and Pfizer to the discovery of small molecules that hit a pain target.

Daiichi has nominated a single GPCR for Heptares to focus its attention on, and provided $4 million (€3.7 million) upfront to secure its services. Heptares is also set to receive $8 million in research funding, plus potential R&D and commercial milestones of undisclosed size. Daiichi will have the exclusive global rights to small molecules Heptares discovers against the unnamed GPCR target.

The alliance further burnishes Heptares reputation as the go-to partner for companies dealing with tricky GPCR targets.

"This is a very exciting new collaboration as relieving pain presents a significant challenge. We are confident that the unique structural insights of the receptor that our technologies can deliver combined with expertise on its role in pain from the Neurosciences team at Daiichi Sankyo will yield new, differentiated molecules that can be advanced into development,” Heptares CEO Malcolm Weir said in a statement.

GPCRs, a superfamily of transmembrane receptors, are a common target for drug developers. But in some cases evidence of a target’s role in a disease pathway has outpaced the industry’s abilities to hit it with a drug. When faced with such drug targets, a string of biotechs and Big Pharmas have turned to Heptares and its StaR technology for support.

This method enabled Heptares to generate a stable version of PAR2 and solve its x-ray structure for AstraZeneca. And to gain enough understanding into once-discarded Alzheimer’s disease target muscarinic M1 to land a $3.3 billion deal with Allergan.

While the target proposed by Daiichi is new, the broader pain sector and the process of going after GPCRs within it are familiar to Heptares. The PAR2 target Heptares worked on for AstraZeneca is linked to pain, and its alliance with Teva covers development of small molecule antagonists of migraine targets.