New programme focused on GPCR target implicated in brain cancer 

Heptares Therapeutics announced the launch of a new research collaboration under its ORBIT initiative with New York University School of Medicine

GPCR ribbon

ORBIT (Opportunities in Receptor Biology for Industrial Translation) is a collaborative research initiative launched by Heptares in February 2016 and designed to promote and broaden the application of its proprietary structure-based drug design expertise directed at G protein-coupled receptor (GPCRs) to create transformative medicines.

Heptares is committing up to £5 million over the next three years to fund this new initiative.

The collaboration between Heptares and New York University (NYU) School of medicine will support a multi-year programme with NYU’s drug discovery accelerator group, the Office of Therapeutics Alliances (OTA) and the lab of Assistant Professor Dimitris Placantonakis, an expert on the pathology and treatment of brain tumours, at the Neurosurgical Laboratory for Stem Cell Research, in the Department of Neurosurgery at the NYU School of Medicine.

In parallel, Heptares will apply its world-leading GPCR-targeted drug discovery and translational medicine capabilities to generate a new wave of novel small molecules and biologics for advancement through its development pipeline.

Research activities will focus on the discovery of novel molecules that selectively modulate a GPCR implicated in the formation and progression of glioblastoma multiforme, an aggressive brain cancer.

Assistant Prof. Placantonakis, said: “Our understanding of the role of this GPCR target in glioblastoma has advanced significantly in recent years.

We are excited to begin translating that knowledge with Heptares, through application of its unique structure-based approach, into much needed drug candidates for this highly aggressive and poorly treated cancer.

Heptares and NYU will jointly fund the initial discovery phase of the programme. Heptares has an exclusive option to license intellectual property relevant to the target, and to take any promising compounds further through development and potentially to commercialisation.

Fiona Marshall, CSO at Heptares and Sosei, said: “The philosophy behind our ORBIT programmes is to work with leading experts who are at the forefront of understanding the roles of specific GPCRs in human disease, and to apply our combined expertise and technological capabilities to develop better medicines to treat devastating diseases.

“This new collaboration with Assistant Prof. Placantonakis and NYU OTA is an excellent example of this philosophy in action and we are excited by the potential it offers to find new therapies for patients with brain tumours.”

Since its launch in February 2016, Heptares has initiated two other programmes under the initiative: with Imperial College London’s National Heart and Lung Institute (NHLI) focused on an orphan receptor that is implicated in a range of immune disorders including asthma and inflammatory bowel disease; and with the University of Cambridge based on the apelin receptor in cardiovascular diseases.

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