Protoplasmic and fibrous astrocytes, illustration

Confo Therapeutics, a leader in targeting G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs), this week announced an agreement with Daiichi Sankyo for the discovery and development of small molecule agonists against an undisclosed CNS target.

Confo will receive upfront and milestone payments totaling $183 million and tiered royalties on sales from any resulting products.

This is Confo’s second big licensing deal this month. Earlier in March, they inked a deal with Eli Lilly for the biotech’s non-opioid drug candidate CFTX-1554 and back-up compounds. CFTX-1554 is the company’s lead product, currently in pre-clinical testing. Confo also announced a deal with Regeneron in late 2021. That deal involves discovering new antibody-drug conjugates for two GPCR targets.

GPCRs are one of the most successful therapeutic target families. They are targets for approximately 35% of approved drugs, but those account for only about 15% of the estimated 800 human GPCRs. Research of this class has recently shifted from “random ligand screening to knowledge-driven drug design.” A field that Confo is a pioneer of.

To discover these new targets with Daiichi, Confo will use its proprietary ConfoBody-enabled GPCR platform to generate a lead series of small molecule compounds. Daiichi has an exclusive option to acquire a worldwide exclusive license for the resulting compounds and advance them towards clinical development and commercialization.

Confo Therapeutics was spun out of Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) and research institute VIB in 2015. The company says its key proprietary technology (the ConfoBody) stabilizes functional conformations of GPCRs to uncover a wider range of GPCRs as drug targets.

A ConfoBody is a single-domain antibody (VHH), that binds to and stabilizes proteins in their “therapeutically relevant conformation, for example in the agonist-bound active state,” according to a press release.

“Daiichi Sankyo has historically been at the forefront of leveraging innovative technologies to develop novel medicines. We are excited by this collaboration in which we will be using Confo’s expertise and platform to pursue a previously undruggable GPCR target in an area of high unmet medical need,” said Cedric Ververken, CEO of Confo Therapeutics.

He added that, “As we expand the scope of our internal drug discovery and development efforts, we look forward to continuing to enter partnerships with leading innovators to create new therapeutic options for patients.”

GPCRs are the largest protein family encoded by the human genome. They are located on the cell membrane and transduce extracellular signals into physiological effects. Their endogenous ligands include hormones, neurotransmitters, chemokines, and more. These receptors have been implicated in diseases that include type 2 diabetes mellitus, obesity, depression, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and more.

Confo’s pipeline includes CFTX-1554 and candidates for rare diseases. All are currently in pre-clinical stages.

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