acquisition handshakeHeptares Therapeutics, the clinical-stage GPCR structure-guided drug discovery and development company and wholly owned subsidiary of Sosei Group Corporation, is pleased to announce that it has entered into a licensing agreement with AstraZeneca under which AstraZeneca will acquire exclusive global rights to develop, manufacture and commercialize the adenosine A2A receptor antagonist, HTL-1071, a small molecule immuno-oncology candidate, and potential additional A2A receptor-blocking compounds.

AstraZeneca will focus on exploring HTL-1071 and any additional compounds across a range of cancers, including in combination with its existing portfolio of immunotherapies.

Tumour cells have evolved 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 anticancer response of T-cells within in the tumour microenvironment.

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 preclinical and/or clinical events. Subject to the successful completion of development and commercialization 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 research. By combining the pioneering A2A receptor programme with the strength of AstraZeneca’s existing 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.”

This transaction is subject to customary clearances under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act.