Protein molecules, computer artwork.

Sosei Group Corporation has inked a drug discovery collaboration with Eli Lilly and Company to discover, develop, and commercialize small molecules that modulate novel G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) targets associated with diabetes and metabolic diseases.

GPCRs are the largest and most diverse group of membrane receptors in eukaryotes— organisms whose cells have a nucleus. They are implicated in a wide variety of diseases where antibody therapeutics are currently used, such as inflammatory disease, metabolic disease, and cancer.

“This new agreement with Lilly further reinforces our position as a global partner of choice for GPCR-focused drug discovery targeting major diseases where patients remain in need of new and effective therapies,” said Matt Barnes, PhD Head of U.K. Research & Development, Sosei Heptares.

The agreement leverages Sosei’s StaR technology and structure-based drug design (SBDD) platform with Lilly’s drug development and commercialization expertise as well as its strength in diabetes and metabolic diseases.

Under the terms of the agreement, Sosei will focus its efforts on multiple GPCR targets nominated by Lilly to deliver novel target-selective small molecule hit candidates for further development and commercialization.

StaR technology, Sosei says on their website, let’s them “stabilize a GPCR by engineering a small number of single point mutations outside of the ligand-binding site such that they retain their organized structure even after they are removed from the cell membrane. The resulting stabilized proteins (StaR® proteins) are much more robust than the corresponding “wild-type,” or unmutated, proteins.”

Sosei receives an upfront payment of $37 million on signing and is eligible to receive development and commercial milestones of up to $694 million, plus tiered royalties on global sales.

Sosei has many partners, including big pharmas. In 2020 Abbvie and Sosei announced a deal to “discover, develop, and commercialize novel small molecule medicines that modulate GPCR targets of interest to AbbVie.” Sosei received a $10 million milestone payment on that deal earlier this week. AstraZeneca made a deal with Sosei in 2011 over central nervous system/pain, cardiovascular/metabolic and inflammatory disorders. Roche’s Genentech made a deal in 2019 across a number of diseases (worth approximately $1B potentially). GSK and Sosei inked a collaboration in 2020.

Lilly’s been down the GPCR road before. In 2011, the drugmaker struck up a collaboration with biotech Receptos to develop small-molecule modulators of an undisclosed GPCR target. Receptos was later acquired by Celgene.

“Continued innovation across Diabetes and Metabolic Diseases has been a key priority for Lilly for many years. This requires us to access cutting-edge expertise and technologies to successfully advance our mission in this area,” said Ruth Gimeno, PhD, Group Vice President, Diabetes and Metabolic Research.

Added Barnes, “We provide a highly attractive approach that is recognized by many of the world’s leading biopharmaceutical companies and are delighted to add Lilly to that list. Lilly is a recognized world leader in diabetes and metabolic diseases, and we look forward to a collaboration that brings together our respective and complementary expertise with the goal of identifying and developing novel candidates to advance in these important areas of unmet need.”

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