Pfizer has selected the first drug candidate from a collaboration with Sosei Group to develop drugs for major diseases, which are aimed at targets from the G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) class.
A family of membrane proteins, GPCRs detect molecules outside cells and pass on signals within the cell that produce responses. Because they have such a key role in determining cellular response GPCRs are a common target for drugs and around a third of drugs approved by the FDA involve a target from this family of several hundred proteins.
Pfizer has been working with Sosei Heptares, the Japanese biotech’s UK unit, focusing on GPCRs that have a role in disease that existing drugs have been unable to target. Following an undisclosed upfront payment to Sosei when it signed the deal in 2015, Pfizer will pay up to $189 million for each of up to 10 candidates for clinical development.
After finding potential candidates against the GPCR targets named by Pfizer, the big pharma has selected the first preclinical small-molecule drug for development. No further details were disclosed at this stage, but Sosei said the drugs are aimed at metabolic and inflammatory diseases.
Sosei Heptares said it has delivered stabilised receptors (StaR proteins), X-ray structures and biophysical data, triggering a $3 million milestone payment from Pfizer. Along with further milestones agreed in 2015, Pfizer may also pay royalties to Sosei Heptares if any drugs from the collaboration make it to market.
Dr Malcolm Weir, chief R&D officer of Sosei Heptares, said:
“Pfizer has a real appreciation of the potential value that structural studies can bring to drug design and discovery. 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.”
The 2012 Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to Brian Kobilka of Stanford University and Robert Lefkowitz of Duke University for their work understanding the function of GPCRs.