Heptares lands $410M deal with Teva to apply structure-based design to migraine targets

Heptares has bagged another R&D collaboration on the strength of its structure-based approach to drug discovery. Teva ($TEVA) is the latest big-name drugmaker to turn to Heptares for help, handing over $10 million upfront and committing to up to $400 million more in a bid to gain migraine assets.

The deal gives Teva exclusive global rights to small-molecule calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) antagonist migraine treatments discovered by Heptares. Having pocketed $10 million upfront, the research team at Heptares will now set about using its structure-based design toolkit to deliver new programs to Teva. The process draws on multiple biotech IT technologies that enable Heptares to identify the 3D structures of G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs), the superfamily of receptors through which the activity of CGRP is mediated.

GPCRs have historically caused drug discovery teams sleepless nights, but Heptares thinks its toolkit can find ways around the challenges inherent in drugging the targets. Heptares' StaR technology, the name of which is a contraction of "stabilized receptor," gives researchers thermostable versions of GPCRs to play with. And by applying x-ray crystallography and a surface plasmon resonance-based method Heptares has dubbed biophysical mapping to the task of determining the 3D structures of the GPCRs, researchers can take a structure-based drug design approach to the proteins.

Teva likes what it has seen. "We are delighted to begin this partnership with Heptares, which through its industry-leading, structure-based design approach has generated novel CGRP antagonists with significant promise for treating migraine," Teva CSO Dr. Michael Hayden said in a statement. The deal is a continuation of an active push at Teva to apply CGRP antagonists to the treatment of migraine. "We believe small-molecule CGRP antagonists offer further opportunities that are highly complementary to our promising candidate, TEV-48125, an anti-CGRP antibody," Hayden said.

For Welwyn Garden City, U.K.-based Heptares, the deal is a further validation of its structure-based approach to GPCRs. Teva joins AstraZeneca ($AZN) and Novartis ($NVS) on the list of drugmakers to turn to Heptares for help discovering small molecules. 

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