Deal hun­gry So­sei Hep­tares brings Roche's Genen­tech on board as a part­ner

Japan’s So­sei Hep­tares is stack­ing up key part­ners. On Tues­day, the Tokyo-based com­pa­ny said it had joined forces with Roche’s Genen­tech to de­vel­op med­i­cines that mod­u­late G pro­tein-cou­pled re­cep­tors (GPCR), an en­trenched class of in­te­gral cell mem­brane pro­teins found in cells and tis­sues across the body.

Shinichi Tamu­ra So­sei Hep­tares

The GPCR fam­i­ly in­cludes re­cep­tors that are re­spon­si­ble for the recog­ni­tion of light, taste, odors, hor­mones, pain and neu­ro­trans­mit­ters, among oth­er things — mak­ing it a pop­u­lar tar­get for drug de­vel­op­ment. About a third of ex­ist­ing med­i­cines tar­get GPCR — but about 224 of the rough­ly 400 re­cep­tors are still un­ex­plored, So­sei said.

Sci­en­tists have found chal­leng­ing map­ping the struc­ture of GPCRs when they are iso­lat­ed from the cell mem­brane has proved dif­fi­cult as they are typ­i­cal­ly un­sta­ble in iso­la­tion. The com­pa­ny — which re­in­stat­ed founder Shinichi Tamu­ra as CEO to re­place GSK vet­er­an Pe­ter Bains at the helm late last year — is armed with tech­nol­o­gy that is en­gi­neered to ex­tri­cate the GPCR struc­ture from cell mem­branes while re­tain­ing its orig­i­nal three-di­men­sion­al in­tegri­ty, en­abling the gen­er­a­tion of “small mol­e­cules, pep­tides and ther­a­peu­tic an­ti­bod­ies tar­get­ing chal­leng­ing or pre­vi­ous­ly un­drug­gable GPCRs.”

Pe­ter Bains

The promise of So­sei’s tech­nol­o­gy has lured a num­ber of il­lus­tri­ous part­ners with deep pock­ets — this fund­ing helps fu­el the com­pa­ny’s in­ter­nal pipeline.

So­sei, which ac­quired UK-based Hep­tares’ GPCR plat­form in a $400 mil­lion deal back in 2015, has a Phase II pro­gram for the symp­to­matic treat­ment of Alzheimer’s dis­ease with Al­ler­gan $AGN, and a slate of im­muno-on­col­o­gy drugs in the pipeline with As­traZeneca $AZN. It al­so counts No­var­tis, Pfiz­er, Dai­ichi-Sankyo, Pep­tiDream, Kymab and Mor­phoSys as its part­ners.

Un­der the new deal, Genen­tech has nom­i­nat­ed mul­ti­ple GPCR tar­gets. Mal­colm Weir, So­sei Hep­tares’ chief R&D of­fi­cer, said he was not at lib­er­ty to dis­close the tar­gets, but of­fered that they are broad­ly de­signed to ad­dress “dis­ease ar­eas of high un­met need,” in an in­ter­view with End­points News.

Mal­colm Weir So­sei Hep­tares

Weir said the com­pa­ny is look­ing to do more deals. “We were found­ed in 2007, and twelve years lat­er we’re do­ing big­ger and bet­ter deals. Fun­da­men­tal­ly, the plat­form con­tin­ues to evolve…we’ve adopt­ed Cryo-elec­tron mi­croscopy re­cent­ly.”

Cryo-elec­tron mi­croscopy is a tech­nique de­signed to dis­cern three-di­men­sion­al in­for­ma­tion about pro­tein struc­tures at the mol­e­c­u­lar lev­el — it was pi­o­neered by Hep­tares founder Richard Hen­der­son who won the No­bel Prize in Chem­istry 2017 for his work. Hen­der­son, along with Weir, Fiona Mar­shall and Chris Tate found­ed Hep­tares.

Un­der the Genen­tech deal, So­sei Hep­tares is el­i­gi­ble to get $26 mil­lion in up­front and near-term pay­ments, in ad­di­tion to fu­ture mile­stone pay­ments that may ex­ceed $1 bil­lion, as well as po­ten­tial roy­al­ties.

So­cial im­age: Tokyo, Shut­ter­stock

M&A: a crit­i­cal dri­ver for sus­tain­able top-line growth in health­care

2021 saw a record $600B in healthcare M&A activity. In 2022, there is an anticipated slowdown in activity, however, M&A prospects remain strong in the medium to long-term. What are future growth drivers for the healthcare sector? Where might we see innovations that drive M&A? RBC’s Andrew Callaway, Global Head, Healthcare Investment Banking discusses with Vito Sperduto, Global Co-Head, M&A.

15 LGBTQ lead­ers in bio­phar­ma; Paul Stof­fels’ Gala­pa­gos re­vamp; As­traZeneca catch­es up in AT­TR; and more

Welcome back to Endpoints Weekly, your review of the week’s top biopharma headlines. Want this in your inbox every Saturday morning? Current Endpoints readers can visit their reader profile to add Endpoints Weekly. New to Endpoints? Sign up here.

A return to in-person conferences also marks a return to on-the-ground reporting. My colleagues Beth Synder Bulik and Nicole DeFeudis were on-site at Cannes Lions, bringing live coverage of pharma’s presence at the ad festival — accompanied by photos from Clara Bui, our virtual producer, that bring you right to the scene. You can find a recap (and links to all the stories) below.

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David Loew (Ipsen)

Ipsen snags an ap­proved can­cer drug in $247M M&A deal as an­oth­er bat­tered biotech sells cheap

You can add Paris-based Ipsen to the list of discount buyers patrolling the penny stock pack for a cheap M&A deal.

The French biotech, which has had plenty of its own problems to grapple with, has swooped in to buy Epizyme $EPZM for $247 million in cash and a CVR with milestones attached to it. Epizyme shareholders, who had to suffer through a painfully soft launch of their EZH2a inhibitor cancer drug Tazverik, will get $1.45 per share along with a $1 CVR tied to achieving $250 million in sales from the drug over four consecutive quarters as well as an OK for second-line follicular lymphoma by 1 Jan. 2028.

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AstraZeneca's new Evusheld direct to consumer campaign aims to reach more immunocompromised patients.

As­traZeneca de­buts first con­sumer cam­paign for its Covid-19 pro­phy­lac­tic Evusheld — and a first for EUA drugs

AstraZeneca’s first consumer ad for Evusheld is also a first for drugs that have been granted emergency use authorizations during the pandemic.

The first DTC ad for a medicine under emergency approval, the Evusheld campaign launching this week aims to raise awareness among immunocompromised patients — and spur more use.

Evusheld nabbed emergency authorization in December, however, despite millions of immunocompromised people looking for a solution and now more widespread availability of the drug.

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invoX Pharma CEO Ben Toogood (L) and F-star CEO Eliot Forster

F-star bought out in $161M all-cash deal as Hong Kong's Sino Bio­pharm looks to­ward in­ter­na­tion­al ex­pan­sion

After more than a decade and a half of charting its own course, F-star Therapeutics will now settle under a new umbrella company.

The UK biotech will be acquired by invoX Pharma, a subsidiary of Hong Kong’s Sino Biopharm, in a roughly $161 million all-cash deal, the companies announced Thursday morning. F-star’s buyout will value its shares $FSTX at $7.12 apiece, nearly an 80% premium above Wednesday’s closing price.

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GSK says its drug for chron­ic hep B could ‘lead to a func­tion­al cure’ — but will it be alone or in com­bi­na­tion?

GSK, newly branded and soon-to-be demerged, shared interim results from its Phase II trial on its chronic hepatitis B treatment, one that it says has the “potential to lead to a functional cure.”

At a presentation at the EASL International Liver Congress, GSK shared that in around 450 patients who received its hep B drug bepirovirsen for 24 weeks, just under 30% had hepatitis B surface antigen and viral DNA levels that were too low to detect.

De­spite a slow start to the year for deals, PwC pre­dicts a flur­ry of ac­tiv­i­ty com­ing up

Despite whispers of a busy year for M&A, deal activity in the pharma space is actually down 30% on a semi-annualized basis, according to PwC’s latest report on deal activity. But don’t rule out larger deals in the second half of the year, the consultants said.

PwC pharmaceutical and life sciences consulting solutions leader Glenn Hunzinger expects to see Big Pharma companies picking up earlier stage companies to try and fill pipeline gaps ahead of a slew of big patent cliffs. Though a bear market continues to maul the biotech sector, Hunzinger said recent deals indicate that pharma companies are still paying above current trading prices.

Abortion-rights protesters regroup and protest following Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)

Fol­low­ing SCO­TUS de­ci­sion to over­turn abor­tion pro­tec­tions, AG Gar­land says states can't ban the abor­tion pill

Following the Supreme Court’s historic decision on Friday to overturn Americans’ constitutional right to an abortion after almost 50 years, Attorney General Merrick Garland sought to somewhat reassure women that states will not be able to ban the prescription drug sometimes used for abortions.

Following the decision, the New England Journal of Medicine also published an editorial strongly condemning the reversal, saying it “serves American families poorly, putting their health, safety, finances, and futures at risk.”

Joe Wiley, Amryt Pharma CEO

Am­ryt Phar­ma sub­mits a for­mal dis­pute res­o­lu­tion to the FDA over re­ject­ed skin dis­ease drug

The story of Amryt Pharma’s candidate for the genetic skin condition epidermolysis bullosa, or EB, will soon enter another chapter.

After the Irish drugmaker’s candidate, dubbed Oleogel-S10 and marketed as Filsuvez, was handed a CRL earlier this year, the company announced in a press release that it plans to submit a formal dispute resolution request for the company’s NDA for Oleogel-S10.