AbbVie, targeting a well-known protein family, expands a partnership into neuroscience

AbbVie, looking to develop new treatments for neurological disorders, has entered into another collaboration with the Japan-based drugmaker Sosei Heptares.

The two companies originally linked up in 2020, hoping to use Sosei’s technology and drug discovery tools to develop new medicines for inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. Their work has specifically focused on G protein-coupled receptors, or GPCRs, a diverse family of proteins that perform a variety of essential functions in cells and, as such, are of considerable interest to drug researchers. Some estimates hold that roughly one third of all medicines approved by the Food and Drug Administration target GPCRs.

The deal announced Tuesday expands the scope of AbbVie and Sosei’s work to include GPCRs associated with neurological diseases. Per terms of the agreement, Sosei will lead and finance the earlier research and development activities, from the drug discovery work through the completion of studies needed to usher any potential medicines into human testing.

AbbVie, then, holds the exclusive option to license up to three programs. If AbbVie chooses to acquire a drug prospect, it becomes responsible for the program’s clinical, regulatory and commercial development thereafter.

Sosei, through the new collaboration, gets $40 million upfront and is eligible for another $40 million in unspecified “near-term research milestone payments” that are expected to come in over the following three years. The company may also take home up to $1.2 billion in additional downstream payments, should it hit certain development and commercial goals.

Sosei would receive tiered royalties, too, on global sales of any products stemming from the deal.

For AbbVie, the expanded Sosei alliance adds to a string of recent dealmaking directed at neuroscience. In March, it agreed to buy Syndesi Therapeutics for $130 million, betting that the Belgium-based company’s research, which revolves around a neurotransmitter-regulating protein, could lead to potential treatments for cognitive impairment and other symptoms of certain neurological diseases. Less than two weeks later, AbbVie disclosed with its longtime research partner Gedeon Richter a new deal focused on therapies for neuropsychiatric disorders.

Between January and June of this year, AbbVie recorded $3.1 billion in net revenue from its neuroscience business, which grew 16% year over year, in large part because of increased sales of Botox Therapeutic, the antipsychotic treatment Vraylar and the migraine medication Ubrelvy.

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