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7 January, 2019 - 09:17 By Tony Quested

AstraZeneca pays $15m milestone to Sosei Heptares

Cambridge neighbours Sosei Heptares and AstraZeneca are celebrating a key clinical development milestone with a nextgen immune-oncology candidate. The progress has handed Sosei Heptares a $15 million development jackpot.

AZ and Japanese-owned Sosei Group Corporation have a strategic alliance for the drug candidate AZD4635.

AZD4635 is described by the partners as a potent and selective, orally available, small molecule adenosine 2A receptor antagonist discovered by Sosei Heptares and exclusively licensed to AstraZeneca globally in 2015.

The candidate has been advancing through a Phase 1 clinical programme as a single agent and in combination with AstraZeneca’s anti-PD-L1 antibody durvalumab (IMFINZI®) in patients with solid tumours. 

The clinical study to date has established the maximum-tolerated dose of AZD4635 as a single agent and in combination with durvalumab. The study has progressed successfully to the point where the therapeutic potential of AZD4635 is being explored in multiple solid tumours. 

As a result, AstraZeneca is moving the trial towards Phase 2, thereby triggering the milestone payment to Sosei Heptares. Headline data from the Phase 1 study is planned to be presented at a scientific congress this year.

Susan Galbraith, senior vice-president and head of the Oncology, Innovative Medicines and Early Development (IMED) Biotech Unit at AstraZeneca, is excited by the progress o date.

She said: “At AstraZeneca, we are exploring next generation immuno-oncology approaches by seeking to develop novel combinations that overcome key immunosuppressive mechanisms and thereby expand the potential for anti-tumour activity of immune checkpoint inhibition.”

Sosei Heptares executive VP and chief R & D officer, Dr Malcolm Weir, added: “It is increasingly recognised that the adenosine pathway is critical in tumour immunosuppression and AZD4635 complements our portfolio in this area.

“Adenosine production in the tumour microenvironment is becoming well-recognised as a key survival mechanism employed by tumour cells to evade immune detection and destruction. Our A2A antagonist AZD4635, which aims to block this mechanism and make tumour cells vulnerable again to the immune system, has made very encouraging and rapid progress in partnership with AstraZeneca, a world leader in immuno-oncology. 

“We believe this is a very exciting candidate and look forward to results from these initial clinical studies in due course.”

Sosei Heptares expects to receive the $15m payment by the end of the first quarter ending March 31.

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