AZ pays Heptares $10m as cancer trial begins

AstraZeneca has paid Heptares $10 million after beginning first-in-human studies of an immuno-oncology drug candidate.

AZ is developing HTL1071, an A2A receptor antagonist, after Heptares licensed a portfolio of cancer drugs to the Anglo-Swedish pharma last August.

Heptares said AZ has notified it that the recruitment of patients to the phase 1 study has triggered a $10 million payment under the terms of the deal, which also includes an R&D collaboration to discover further A2A antagonists for development in cancer immunotherapy.

If all targets are met, Heptares could receive more than $500 million, as well as double-digit tiered royalties on net sales.

The first-in-human study is being conducted by AZ in around 50 patients with advanced solid malignancies and with non-small cell lung cancer.

The trial’s primary objective is to determine the maximum dose of HTL1071 alone and in combination with durvalumab (MEDI4736), AZ’s investigational human monoclonal antibody directed against PDL1.

A phase 2 trial is planned to further investigate safety, tolerability, pharmacokinetics and anti-tumour activity of the selected doses.

HTL1071 is an orally available, small molecule adenosine A2A receptor antagonist, and the lead candidate in the portfolio of A2A antagonists discovered by Heptares using its proprietary structure-based drug design platform.

AZ is one of many companies aiming to break into the field of immuno-oncology. Bristol-Myers Squibb has been a trailblazer, with its Opdivo (nivolumab) and Yervoy (ipilimumab), which instruct the body’s immune system to attack cancer cells.

UK-based Heptares is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Japan’s Sosei Group Corporation, and makes medicines targeting G protein-coupled receptors, a superfamily of 375 receptors linked to a range of diseases.

It is building a pipeline of new drugs for Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia, cancer immuno-oncology, migraine, addiction, metabolic disease, and others.

Heptares has already formed partnerships with Allergan, AZ, Kymab, MedImmune, MorphoSys, Pfizer and Teva.

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