Sosei Heptares bags another big partnership, this time with Takeda


Japanese biotech Sosei’s buyout of the UK’s Heptares four years ago has rewarded it with a string of big pharma partners, and Takeda has just joined the throng.

Takeda is putting up $26 million in upfront and near-term cash for the alliance, which will focus initially on applying Sosei Heptares G-protein couple receptor (GPCR) to the discovery of drugs for gastrointestinal diseases.

The research programme will include a hunt for small-molecule and biologic drugs against multiple targets nominated by Takeda, and is worth up to $1.2 billion for Sosei Heptares if all R&D and commercial objectives are met.

The deal comes just three weeks after a $1 billion tie-up with Roche’s Genentech unit across a range of diseases, once again with a $26m upfront package, with the new partners joining a lengthy list that includes companies like Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Allergan, Novartis, and Daiichi-Sankyo.

The draw for all these big companies is Sosei Heptares' expertise in GPCRs, of which there are hundreds coded for in the human genome. They are the target of around a third of all marketed drugs, but the functions of many are poorly understood, and scientists think these so-called ‘orphan’ GPCRs could provide a rich source of new medicines.

Takeda has had working relationship with the company for a number of years, having been an early investor in Heptares via its venture fund ahead of the $400 million takeover by Sosei.

Dr Gareth Hicks, head of Takeda’s gastroenterology drug discovery unit, said the alliance “provides an exciting avenue for discovery in gut inflammation and motility disorders.”

That’s not to say recent events have all been positive for the Anglo-Japanese biotech. Teva ducked out of its $410 million collaboration on migraine therapies last year, returning rights to lead candidate HTL0022562, although Sosei Heptares has made noises about taking the drug forward on its own.

Meanwhile, last year Sosei shares sank after it called a halt to trials of Allergan-partnered candidate HTL0018318 for Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia after an unexpected toxicology issue emerged from animal studies.

The delay held up a major milestone payment from Allergan that was due this year and the two companies have suspended development of the drug, including a planned phase 2 study in Alzheimer’s, while they investigate the finding.

Takeda has a strong heritage in GI medicines, with products such as ulcerative colitis therapy Entyvio (vedolizumab) as well as Protonix (pantoprazole) and Prevacid (lansoprazole) for reflux disease.

It has been forced to divest one pipeline drug for inflammatory bowel disease however in order to get antitrust approval for its $62 billion takeover of Shire.