After spinning out two companies at the start of the year, Sosei Heptares has now inked a new deal with Roche biologics unit Genentech.
The headline $1 billion biobucks is, as ever, heavily backloaded, with the upfront a mere $26 million. Under the deal, the pair will seek to work on new meds that modulate G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) targets “across a range of diseases.”
For its part, Sosei Heptares will wed its GPCR-focused structure-based drug design work to Genentech’s expertise as they look for GPCR targets of interest to the Big Biotech.
Genentech said in a statement that it will be responsible for developing and selling any new therapies coming out of the deal and “will have exclusive global rights to these agents.”
GPCRs are a broad class of membrane receptors the members of which bind to a variety of signaling molecules and are involved in a wide range of functions in the human body.
Researchers estimate that between one-third and one-half of all marketed drugs act by binding to GPCRs, according to Nature, and that has made them a big target for drug developers although many GPCRs are “orphan,” meaning their precise roles and ligands in the body are unknown.
This isn’t Roche’s first foray into the area, as back in 2017 it entered into a neurological and developmental disorder drug discovery pact with Confo Therapeutics, giving the Swiss major a potential source of small-molecule agonists of an undisclosed GPCR.
Sosei Heptares, too, has a long list of biopharma partners, including the likes of Allergan, AstraZeneca and Daiichi Sankyo. It did have a pact with Israeli generics giant Teva Pharmaceutical, but this was scrapped last spring.
This comes six months after the company spread out its GPCR workload: When Sosei bought out U.K. biotech Heptares for $400 million in 2015, it inherited a big pipeline of GPCR-targeted programs—too many to take forward on its own.
Back in January, it spun some of those out into two new U.K.-based biotechs that will be bankrolled in part by Anglo-Swiss venture fund Medicxi to the tune of €40 million (around $46 million).
The two new companies—dubbed Orexia and Inexia—have been created to advance various projects targeting the GPCR protein orexin that have grown out of Sosei Heptares’ R&D operations in Cambridge, and specifically agonists of orexin OX1 and OX2 for neurological diseases including narcolepsy.
Dr. Malcolm Weir, executive vice president and chief R&D officer of Sosei Heptares, said: “Sosei Heptares has strived to collaborate with leaders in the industry who appreciate the potential of combining their extensive drug development and commercialization expertise with our world-leading GPCR structure-based drug design approach to generate and advance new therapeutics across multiple disease areas.
“We are therefore delighted to enter this new partnership with Genentech, one of the most innovative companies in the biopharmaceutical industry, and excited to see what the combination of our respective capabilities can deliver.”
James Sabry, M.D., Ph.D., global head of pharma partnering at Roche, added: “We believe GPCRs are an important target class that play a role in many serious diseases. Sosei Heptares brings truly unique capabilities to enable and accelerate GPCR drug discovery. We look forward to collaborating with the Sosei Heptares team to hopefully bring novel GPCR-targeted medicines to patients as quickly as possible.”