Heptares nabs $5M from Teva for new migraine molecule

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Heptares is developing a small-molecule drug that inhibits CGRP, a hot target in migraine relief.

Migraine drugs that target a protein called calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) are among the hottest pipeline candidates in biotech. Now, London-based Heptares Therapeutics is entering the race, thanks to a $5 million payment from its research partner Teva, which has a goal of becoming a leader in the migraine market.

Heptares, a subsidiary of Sosei Group, announced on May 18 that it is advancing an investigational CGRP antagonist into preclinical studies after a “rigorous Teva candidate selection process.” The partners believe they may have hit on a distinctive mechanism for blocking CGRP that will both treat acute migraine and prevent it.

But they’ll have one major rival to contend with that’s much further ahead in the migraine market: Amgen. The biotech giant, which is developing its candidate with Novartis, presented data from two late-stage studies last month of its CGRP inhibitor erenumab (AMG 334) that prompted analysts to predict the drug would be approved and that it will hit $1.5 billion in sales in 2025.

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Teva is already has already entered the CGRP ring with TEV-48125, an antibody that is in mid-stage trials. Other contenders with CGRP antagonists are Alder Biopharmaceuticals and Eli Lilly. Phase 3 data on all three should be released next year. All told, the overall migraine market could balloon from $3 billion in 2015 to over $10 billion in 2025, with CGRP inhibitors grabbing $4.5 billion of that, predicts Decision Resources.

Scientists from Teva and Heptares have worked together to gain insights into how CGRP interacts with G protein-coupled receptors, which are proteins in cell membranes that are commonly targeted with drugs. That work led to a small molecule that they believe will be differentiated from more advanced rivals.

"This candidate has very interesting properties,” said Ralph Laufer, head of discovery and product development at Teva R&D in the release. “While we still have a long way to go, we do see some characteristics in this molecule that could set it apart within the class, and look forward to continuing its development."

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