Vertex partners with Septerna to develop GPCR-targeting drugs for rare diseases

Septerna Therapeutics, Vertex Pharmaceuticals, Licensing deals, GPCR, GPCR-targeting drugs, Cystic fibrosis

Septerna, a biotech company, has secured an additional $47.5 million in funding through a licensing agreement with Vertex, a prominent cystic fibrosis drug manufacturer. This development comes just two months after Septerna raised $150 million from investors to advance its first drug targeting G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) into clinical trials. As part of this deal, Vertex will provide the cash infusion and commit to undisclosed milestone payments for a GPCR program in the discovery stage. Notably, a portion of these additional payments will be directed towards gaining access to Septerna’s GPCR Native Complex platform.

“This agreement highlights the strength of our GPCR Native Complex™ Platform to rapidly deliver high quality programs against important targets as we aim to position ourselves as leaders in the discovery of GPCR-targeted medicines. As part of a continuous portfolio optimization process, the acquisition of this program by Vertex provides additional non-dilutive funding to allow us to continue to build a multi-product GPCR-focused pipeline for a wide range of diseases. This transaction, in conjunction with our recent Series B financing, brings in approximately $200 million to initiate new high value programs and to drive existing programs to the clinic, with the goal of delivering medicines that improve the lives of patients.”

– Jeffrey Finer, M.D., Ph.D., chief executive officer and co-founder of Septerna

G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) play a vital role in regulating various aspects of human physiology, including functions like vision and blood pressure. Despite their importance, many potential therapeutic GPCR targets remain untapped. Septerna has developed its Native Complex platform to drive large-scale drug discovery efforts aimed at these GPCR targets.

Founded by GPCR pioneer and Nobel laureate Robert Lefkowitz, M.D., Septerna embarked on its journey last year with an initial funding of $100 million. In July, the company secured an impressive $150 million in a series B financing round, with plans to allocate some of the proceeds towards advancing its lead candidate—a small-molecule PTH1R agonist—into a phase 1 trial for hypoparathyroidism.

While Vertex has been actively involved in collaborations with CRISPR Therapeutics for gene editing therapies this year, it is not the only pharmaceutical company turning its attention to GPCRs. In December 2022, Eli Lilly, along with several of its peers, entered into a $730 million partnership with Sosei Heptares to explore small molecules capable of modulating GPCR targets.

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