Under the terms of the agreement, biopharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca will have worldwide commercial rights to products that emerge from the collaboration.
Drug discovery company Heptares, which is based in Welwyn Garden City, will receive an upfront cash payment fee of $6.25 million in addition to research funding. It will also receive royalties on sales of all products discovered through the joint research.
The collaboration aims to discover and develop new medicines that target G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs), a family of proteins found in the human body that become unstable when removed from their natural, membrane-bound environments.
This instability has so far prevented pharmaceutical researchers from understanding GPCR structures and designing medicines that work on GPCR targets.
Results from initial screening and lead identification will be combined into a common pool and the best leads will be developed collaboratively, Heptares said in a statement.
Martin McKay, president of research and development at AstraZeneca, says, ‘This exciting collaboration gives us access to cutting edge technology that will enable us to apply our biophysical and antibody generation capabilities to this important, yet extremely challenging, area of research.’
He adds that work will focus on a range of different diseases across its small and large molecule portfolio, including pain related to the central nervous system, cardiovascular/metabolic and inflammatory disorders.
Heptares was founded in 2007 as a spin-out from the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, with seed funding from MVM Life Science Partners. It has since raised more than $35 million from venture investors.