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12 January, 2021 - 09:55 By Tony Quested

Sosei and PharmEnable harness AI to tackle neurological diseases

Japanese power player Sosei Group Corporation and Cambridge drug discovery business PharmEnable have unveiled a fresh alliance to tackle neurological diseases.

The deal represents a multi-billion dollar opportunity for the partners given the breadth of the market involved.

They will apply their respective technologies to drive novel drug discovery against a challenging G protein-couple receptor (GPCR) target associated with this crucial disease area.

The collaboration will combine Sosei Heptares’ world-leading GPCR-focused structure-based drug design platform with PharmEnable’s proprietary advanced AI-enabled and medicinal chemistry technologies (ChemUniverse and ChemSeek) to identify novel, highly specific drug leads for further development.

PharmEnable’s approach identifies three-dimensional drug candidate hits with improved specificity compared with traditional screening methods and allows the company to take on particularly challenging biological targets, such as peptidergic GPCRs, which have proved difficult to drug using existing approaches.

The natural agonist ligand of a peptidergic GPCR is a large, complex peptide and is often very difficult to block with a small molecule, particularly one that has properties suitable for development as a therapeutic agent for neurological disease.

Under the agreement, the companies will jointly conduct and share the costs of the discovery and development program and will co-own any resulting products. No further financial details are disclosed.

Miles Congreve, chief scientific officer of Sosei Heptares, said: “We have been very impressed with PharmEnable’s technology and approach, which we believe to be highly complementary to our own, offering important synergies for drug discovery on challenging GPCR targets.

“We are excited to apply these technologies on a peptidergic GPCR target that has proved particularly difficult to drug. We have so far assembled a wealth of structural and ligand-binding information on the target and created several promising molecules but have yet to identify compounds with sufficiently desirable neurological drug-like properties to advance into preclinical studies. 

“Combining our respective technologies and expertise may be the key that unlocks this target and enables the identification of higher quality molecules to progress into preclinical development.”

Hannah Sore, CEO at PharmEnable, added: “We are excited to partner with Sosei Heptares on this challenging and complex GPCR target. We have proven the strength of our platform in tapping unexplored parts of the chemical universe to find novel and specific hits for currently undruggable targets. 

“Combining our platform with the technology and structural insights developed by Sosei Heptares should enable us to generate several potential hits, and to establish our pipeline of candidate molecules for the treatment of challenging diseases.”

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