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Pfizer’s alliance with Sosei Heptares bears first fruit

Partners focusing on GPCR-targeting drugs

Sosei

Pfizer has selected the first candidates in its four-year-old alliance with Sosei Heptares, the UK unit of Japanese biotech Sosei Group, sparking a $3m milestone payment.

Cambridge-based Sosei Heptares has been working with Pfizer on drugs that target G-protein coupled receptors (GPCR), the largest family of proteins found in the membranes of cells. The project is focusing on GPCRs that are known to be clinically important but have proved hard to target with drugs.

Pfizer made an undisclosed upfront payment to Sosei Heptares when it signed the deal, and stands to pay up to $189m in milestones for each of up to 10 clinical candidates. It also made a $33m equity investment in Sosei Group, taking a 3% stake in the Japanese company.

The UK unit said it has now advanced potential candidates against GPCR targets nominated by Pfizer in major disease areas, and the first preclinical small-molecule drug has now been nominated for development.

The specific targets remain under wraps for now, although Sosei Heptares says they address metabolic and inflammatory diseases. Since starting the collaboration the biotech says it has delivered stabilised GPCRs – what it calls StaR proteins – as well as X-ray structures and biophysical data for some of the partnered programmes.

There are over 375 GPCRs encoded in the human genome, and they are the site of action of 25%-30% of currently-used medicines. Pfizer is just one of Sosei Heptares’ big pharma partners, and the company has also attracted sizeable collaborations with AstraZeneca, Allergan, Novartis, and Daiichi-Sankyo.

“Pfizer has a real appreciation of the potential value that structural studies can bring to drug design and discovery,” said Malcolm Weir, Sosei Heptares’ chief R&D officer.

“Sosei Heptares is delighted with the relationship and interaction that has developed between our respective scientists since starting the collaboration and particularly with the achievement announced today.”

Sosei paid $400m to acquire Heptares in 2015, just ahead of the Pfizer deal, and last year the fast-growing company moved from its original home in Welwyn into a new 35,000 square foot facility at Granta Park in Cambridge.

The company was officially rebranded Sosei Heptares last December, but is still operating largely independently as a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Japanese group.

Article by
Phil Taylor

14th May 2019

From: Research

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