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Partners in ‘ORBIT’ around glioblastoma multiforme
LONDON—Heptares Therapeutics, the wholly owned subsidiary of Sosei Group Corp., recently announced the launch of a new research collaboration under its ORBIT initiative with New York University (NYU) School of Medicine. This new collaboration will support a multiyear program with NYU’s drug discovery accelerator group, the Office of Therapeutics Alliances (OTA), and the lab of assistant professor Dimitris Placantonakis, an expert on the pathology and treatment of brain tumors, at the Neurosurgical Laboratory for Stem Cell Research, in the Department of Neurosurgery at the NYU School of Medicine.
ORBIT (Opportunities in Receptor Biology for Industrial Translation) is a collaborative research initiative launched by Heptares in February 2016 designed to promote and broaden the application of its proprietary structure-based drug design expertise directed at GPCRs to create transformative medicines. Previous to the NYU partnership, they announced initiatives with the Imperial College London’s National Heart and Lung Institute and the University of Cambridge.
Research activities for this partnership will focus on the discovery of novel molecules that selectively modulate the G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) implicated in the formation and progression of glioblastoma multiforme, an aggressive brain cancer. The collaboration will leverage the expertise of the collaborators to develop a better understanding of disease biology. Heptares will complement the disease-specific expertise of NYU research through application of its world-leading GPCR-targeted drug discovery and translational medicine capabilities to generate optimized molecules for advancement through its development pipeline.
Placantonakis commented, “Our understanding of the role of this GPCR target in glioblastoma has advanced significantly in recent years. We are excited to begin translating that knowledge with Heptares, through application of its unique structure-based approach, into much-needed drug candidates for this highly aggressive and poorly treated cancer.”
Under the terms of the collaboration, Heptares and NYU will jointly fund the initial discovery phase of the program. Heptares has an exclusive option to license intellectual property relevant to the target and to take any promising compounds further through development and potentially to commercialization. NYU is eligible to receive milestone payments on any compounds that advance from the discovery phase and royalty payments on sales of any products that reach the market.
Nadim Shohdy, assistant dean and director of OTA, added: “Our founding principle is that the probability of success is maximized by combining the best academic expertise in identifying, validating and delineating novel disease pathways, with the best industry expertise in translating such findings into viable paths to drug development. Given Heptares’ strengths and many successes in drugging novel GPCR targets, we couldn’t have asked for a better collaborator.”
The ORBIT program facilitates Heptares’ collaboration with leading academic groups and emerging biotechnology companies. ORBIT aims to leverage the expertise of collaborators to seek out new links between GPCRs and diseases and develop a better understanding of disease biology relating to a broad range of GPCR targets. In parallel, Heptares will apply its GPCR-targeted drug discovery and translational medicine expertise to generate a new wave of novel small molecules and biologics for advancement through its development pipeline. These collaborations provide a way of extending Heptares’ reach and access to GPCRs that are emerging as exciting new drug targets across a broad area of diseases. The ultimate goal for Heptares is to advance selective molecules generated from the collaboration into and through clinical development.
“The philosophy behind our ORBIT programs is to work with leading experts who are at the forefront of understanding the roles of specific GPCRs in human disease, and to apply our combined expertise and technological capabilities to develop better medicines to treat devastating diseases,” Fiona Marshall, chief scientific officer of Heptares and Sosei, said in a press release. “This new collaboration with Assistant Prof. Placantonakis and NYU OTA is an excellent example of this philosophy in action, and we are excited by the potential it offers to find new therapies for patients with brain tumors.”