Sosei acquires Heptares Therapeutics for up to US$400m

Heptares Therapeutics is focused on creating medicines targeting G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs)

Sosei Group, a Japanese biopharmaceutical company with operations in Japan and the UK, has acquired Heptares Therapeutics, a UK-based biotechnology company focused on creating medicines targeting G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs).

Sosei has acquired 100% of Heptares’ share capital for $180m in cash and up to $220m contingent on the successful progression of the company’s pipeline and platform.

Heptares will become a wholly owned subsidiary of the Sosei Group, with its existing R&D operations continuing in the UK.

Sosei has been exploring opportunities that can build on and go beyond the revenue stream in milestones and royalties derived from its two COPD products (Ultibro Breezhaler and Seebri Breezhaler) marketed by its partner Novartis.

The company said the acquisition of Heptares, with its clinical and preclinical pipeline of new medicines targeting serious diseases with major unmet need (e.g. Alzheimer’s disease, ADHD, metabolic disease, schizophrenia, migraine, and others), and its StaR drug discovery platform, fulfils this goal.

Heptares was founded in 2007 by Richard Henderson and Christopher Tate at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology (Cambridge, UK), with investment from MVM Life Science Partners and led by co-founders Malcolm Weir and Fiona Marshall. From these origins, and with additional venture funding from MVM, Clarus Ventures, Novartis Venture Fund, Takeda Ventures and the Stanley Family Foundation, Heptares has developed its StaR technology platform that enables it to design drugs precisely based on a detailed understanding of the structure of the drug target – an approach known as structure-based drug design (SBDD). By this method, Heptares aims to design and develop medicines that are more effective, with better selectivity and fewer side effects.

Sosei has been exploring opportunities that can build on and go beyond the revenue stream derived from its two COPD products

Heptares applies this approach primarily to GPCRs – a superfamily of membrane proteins found in every cell in the body that are crucial to communication between cells. Their central role in many biological processes means that they are important targets for drugs: GPCRs are the site of action of about 40% of currently marketed drugs. The potential of the Heptares platform for both discovery of novel, differentiated small molecules and biologics, is therefore high, the company said.

Heptares’ StaR platform has been used to generate new medicines across the neuroscience, metabolic and orphan disease areas.

The company has also leveraged the capabilities of its StaR technology to sign agreements with a number of leading pharmaceutical and biologics companies, including AstraZeneca, Cubist (Merck), Takeda Pharmaceutical, MorphoSys, MedImmune and Novartis. These partnerships have provided more than $30m in upfront and milestone payments to date and are expected to continue generating revenues through milestone payments and royalties over the coming years and beyond the expiration of the Sosei’s COPD products patents in 2026.

The Heptares platform will complement the existing technologies of the Sosei Group subsidiaries: Activus’ nanoparticle technology (APNT), and Jitsubo’s novel peptide manufacturing technology (Molecular Hiving) and peptide modification technology (Peptune). Together, these technologies are expected to generate synergies in the effort to identify new compounds, and to further strengthen the pipeline.

Sosei will continue to be led by Shinichi Tamura as Chairman and CEO. Dr Malcolm Weir, Heptares co-founder and CEO, will remain as CEO of Heptares, which will be managed as an autonomous subsidiary of the Sosei Group. Dr Weir will also join the enlarged Group as Chief R&D Officer and will be responsible for worldwide research and development outside Japan. Dr Declan Doogan and Peter Bains, currently Non-executive Directors on Sosei’s main Board, will join the Heptares Board. Dr Fiona Marshall, co-founder of Heptares and CSO, will also join the Heptares Board.

Companies