Vertex gets in on GPCR game, paying Septerna $47M for undisclosed program

Only two months after snagging $150 million from investors to take its first G-protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) drug into the clinic, Septerna has added another $47.5 million to the pile courtesy of a licensing deal with Vertex.

Cystric fibrosis drugmaker Vertex has stumped up the cash and signed off an unspecified amount of milestone payments for an undisclosed discovery-stage GPCR program. Part of those additional payments will be made for accessing Septerna’s GPCR Native Complex platform.

Combining the recent series B funds with the money from Vertex gives Septerna around $200 million to play with. Septerna CEO Jeffrey Finer, M.D., Ph.D., said this financial firepower will be directed toward both launching “new high value programs and to drive existing programs to the clinic.”

“This agreement highlights the strength of our GPCR Native Complex platform to rapidly deliver high quality programs against important targets as we aim to position ourselves as leaders in the discovery of GPCR-targeted medicines,” Finer said in this morning’s release. “As part of a continuous portfolio optimization process, the acquisition of this program by Vertex provides additional non-dilutive funding to allow us to continue to build a multi-product GPCR-focused pipeline for a wide range of diseases.”

Nearly a third of all approved drugs target GPCRs, proteins that help regulate most aspects of human physiology, including sight and blood pressure. However, plenty of potential therapeutic GPCR targets remain undrugged, leading Septerna to create its Native Complex platform with the aim of powering industrial-scale drug discovery for all GPCR targets.

Founded by GPCR pioneer and Nobel laureate Robert Lefkowitz, M.D., Septerna launched early last year with $100 million in hand. In July, the biotech secured the $150 million series B, with plans to use part of the funds to get its lead candidate, a small-molecule PTH1R agonist, into a phase 1 trial for hypoparathyroidism.

While Vertex’s attention this year has been dominated by its collaborations with CRISPR Therapeutics on gene editing therapies for beta thalassemia, sickle cell disease and diabetes, it’s not the only pharma to start paying more attention to GPCRs. Back in December 2022, Eli Lilly followed many of its peers by signing a $730 million deal with Sosei Heptares to work on small molecules that modulate GPCR targets.