The FINANCIAL — AstraZeneca and Heptares Therapeutics, the wholly-owned subsidiary of Sosei Group Corporation, announced on August 6, that they have entered into a licensing agreement under which AstraZeneca will acquire exclusive global rights to develop, manufacture and commercialise the adenosine A2A receptor antagonist, HTL-1071, a small molecule immuno-oncology candidate, and potential additional A2A receptor-blocking compounds. AstraZeneca will explore the assets across a range of cancers, including in combination with its existing portfolio of immunotherapies.
Tumour cells have developed mechanisms to evade the immune system, including through the production of a natural molecule called adenosine. By stimulating A2A receptors, adenosine stops T-cells within the immune system from proliferating and reduces their ability to destroy cancer cells. Blocking A2A receptors can therefore promote the anti-cancer response of T-cells within in the tumour microenvironment, according to AstraZeneca.
Under the terms of the agreement, Heptares will grant AstraZeneca an exclusive license to research, develop, manufacture and commercialise HTL-1071. The companies will also collaborate to discover further A2A receptor-blocking compounds for development in cancer immunotherapy.
Heptares will receive an upfront payment of $10 million and is eligible to receive additional, significant near term milestone payments based on agreed pre-clinical and/or clinical events. Subject to successful completion of development and commercialisation milestones, Heptares is also eligible to receive more than $500 million, as well as up to double-digit tiered royalties on net sales.
Susan Galbraith, Vice President, Head of Oncology in AstraZeneca’s Innovative Medicines and Early Development Unit, said: “We are pleased to expand our successful collaboration with Heptares into the exciting area of immuno-oncology. By combining the pioneering A2A receptor programme with the strength of AstraZeneca’s oncology portfolio, we hope to develop novel treatments with the potential to transform the lives of patients.”
Malcolm Weir, Chief Executive Officer of Heptares, said: “The A2A receptor programme at Heptares has been an outstanding example of our Structure Based Drug Design approach in action, resulting in a novel clinical candidate, HTL-1071, with a highly attractive profile. Heptares is targeting G-protein-coupled receptors that play a key role in cancer biology through the identification of both antibody and small molecule therapeutics. We are delighted to be entering this expanding field by partnering with AstraZeneca, an innovative leader in the field of cancer immunotherapy. This agreement further builds on our successful existing research collaboration.”
The transaction is subject to customary clearances under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act.