Heptares was co-founded in 2007 by Richard Henderson and Chris Tate, LMB group leaders in the Structural Studies Division. It was set up to exploit their pioneering technology to stabilise G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs). GPCRs are an important family of proteins found in cell membranes. They are responsible for triggering responses inside cells to a number of external factors such as hormones, neurotransmitters and sensory stimuli. About a third of all commonly prescribed drugs, such as beta-blockers and anti-migraine drugs, specifically interact with these receptors. Understanding their structure at a molecular level helps us to design new and more effective drugs to combat many human illnesses.
GPCRs are the most important targets for small molecule drugs in the human body and Heptares is working with partners to discover new medicines to target key diseases such as Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia, type 2 diabetes, cancers and HIV.
The company quickly raised more than £40 million from leading life science venture investors and signed drug discovery collaborations with AstraZeneca, Shire, Takeda and Novartis. This enabled it to develop its unique technology that allows it to design drugs precisely based on a detailed understanding of the structure of the drug-target. Using this method, Heptares aims to design and develop superior medicines that are more effective, with better selectivity and fewer side effects.
The acquisition by Sosei is for up to USD 400 million. Heptares will be managed as an autonomous subsidiary of the Sosei Group. The acquisition secures significant investment into the technology platform and clinical pipeline, and will advance Heptares programmes to provide much needed new treatment options for patients.
Richard Henderson, co-founder of Heptares commented: “The acquisition of Heptares by Sosei is a perfect match. Both are quite small and dynamic companies. Sosei has an excellent income stream based on current treatments, whereas Heptares has drug candidates in early stage clinical trials, that need further investment. The transition of Heptares from an early stage spin-out company into one involved in clinical trials is an excellent example of the success of the MRC policy of translating basic science into improved health.”