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Heptares Inks $200 Million Tech Pact with Novartis Corporation (NVS) (JOBS)


10/12/2009 7:26:19 AM

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WELWYN GARDEN CITY, England, October 12 /PRNewswire/ -- Heptares Therapeutics Ltd, the drug discovery company focused on G-protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) targets, announced today that it has entered into an option agreement with the Novartis Option Fund under which Heptares will apply its proprietary StaR(TM) technology to generate novel drug leads against a nominated, unspecified GPCR target of interest to Novartis. The agreement includes upfront and potential milestone payments to Heptares totaling up to $200 million plus royalties. Full financial terms were not disclosed.

StaR technology enables GPCRs, normally membrane-bound, to be worked on in solution, allowing the use of structure-based drug discovery technologies and the discovery of novel drugs addressing this important set of targets. Heptares is deploying this technology principally to generate small molecule drugs against currently difficult or intractable GPCR targets in several disease areas.

Under the terms of the agreement with the Novartis Option Fund, Heptares will apply its StaR technology to a target identified by Novartis and drive a drug discovery programme against that target.

"This is an excellent early deal for Heptares, endorsing our StaR technology and further strengthening our financial position," said Malcolm Weir, CEO of Heptares Therapeutics. "The deal with the Novartis Option Fund demonstrates confidence that our approach can unlock the potential of GCPR targets and forms a solid foundation for other partnerships with leading pharmaceutical companies."

"The potential of GPCRs as targets for drug discovery is well recognized, but it has always been a challenge to gain structural information on GPCRs," said Anja Koenig for the Novartis Option Fund. "We believe that the power of Heptares' technology to resolve GPCR structures and their expertise in small molecule chemistry will lead to rapid progress in the drug discovery programme against Novartis' nominated target."

The Novartis Option Fund invested GBP7 million in Heptares' GBP21 million fundraising announced in February 2009 in a syndicate with MVM Life Science Partners and Clarus Ventures.

About Heptares Therapeutics Ltd

Heptares is a drug discovery company focused on identifying novel drug candidates targeting validated G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) in several disease areas. Based on its unique StaR(TM) technology platform, Heptares has built an integrated drug discovery capability and aims to progress promising candidates internally and through strategic alliances.

GPCRs are the single most important family of drug targets in the human body, but because of their inherent instability they are refractory to structural studies and biochemical screening. StaR technology enables the engineering of stabilised GPCRs, making them amenable to these vital drug discovery approaches. There are many clinically relevant GPCR targets across a wide range of therapeutic areas where discovery is advancing slowly and for which structural information, novel screening approaches and potential antibody therapeutics would greatly enhance progress.

Heptares was founded in 2007 and its StaR technology arose out of the pioneering work of Heptares' founding scientists at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology (Cambridge, UK) and the National Institute for Medical Research (London, UK).

For more information, see http://www.heptares.com

About the Novartis Option Fund

The Novartis Option Fund is a $200 million fund that is part of the Novartis Venture Funds. Established in 1996, the Novartis Venture Funds currently manage over $750 million in committed capital and is invested in more than 50 private companies. The objective of the Novartis Option Fund is to seed innovative companies through initial and follow on investments. The initial investment is coupled with an option to a specific therapeutic program providing early validation for the company's technology by a larger pharmaceutical partner. The Novartis Venture Funds' team of eight investment professionals located in Basel, Switzerland and Cambridge, Massachusetts, brings together extensive expertise in the biotech and pharmaceutical industry and venture capital.

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