Boehringer Ingelheim has entered a deal with Sosei Heptares to develop a new class of treatments for all schizophrenia symptoms.

Under the global collaboration and exclusive option-to-license agreement, the companies will develop and market a portfolio comprising G protein-coupled receptor 52 (GPR52) agonists from Sosei Heptares to treat positive, negative and cognitive symptoms linked to schizophrenia.

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Schizophrenia affects approximately one in 100 people globally and presents with diverse symptoms.

Symptoms classified as “positive” symptoms include psychosis, delusions and hallucinations. Symptoms classified as “negative” include social withdrawal and apathy. 

Positive symptoms can be stabilised with antipsychotic treatment, but some of these have side effects. There are no currently approved medicines for negative symptoms.

The GPR52 receptor is found in regions of the brain that drive both positive symptoms (the striatum) and negative and cognitive symptoms (the prefrontal cortex).

Agonists targeting this receptor will provide a more precise treatment by calming the striatum and enhancing frontal cortical function.

Sosei Heptares is eligible to receive an upfront payment of €25m from Boehringer Ingelheim.

Boehringer Ingelheim will also pay €60m in option exercise fees and €670m in milestone payments apart from royalties on future product sales.

Boehringer will hold the sole option to license the portfolio of Sosei GPR52 agonists.

The licensing will be executed when Sosei completes the ongoing Phase I and subsequent Phase Ib trial and further Phase II enabling activities with HTL0048149, a GPR52 agonist.

Sosei will conduct and sponsor these trials until the option is exercised in 2025.

The licensed portfolio will include assets such as HTL0048149 and backup compounds developed using Sosei’s StaR technology and structure-based drug design platform.

Boehringer Ingelheim CNS discovery research global head Hugh Marston stated: “We’re very excited to enter this partnership with Sosei Heptares with this novel approach, which aims to address a huge unmet need of those living with schizophrenia. 

“This partnership is highly complementary to our other development programmes aiming to bring a new precision medicine approach to the treatment of mental health disorders with therapies, which we hope will transform the lives of those living with schizophrenia.”

Last month, Boehringer Ingelheim partnered with the Center for Biomarker Research in Medicine to develop new cancer therapies.