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4 February, 2019 - 11:01 By Tony Quested

Sosei Heptares and Medicxi form €40m neuro disease venture

Cambridge brainpower is spearheading a €40 million play to fight neurological diseases.

Sosei Heptares, whose R & D mothership is in Cambridge, is partnering with Medicxi – whose founding partner and chief scientist, David Grainger, operates internationally from a Cambridge base – to form two independent companies, Orexia  and Inexia.

The new ventures aim to develop novel therapies based on positive modulators of the G protein-coupled receptors Orexin OX1 and OX2 for neurological diseases. Medicxi will be investing in both companies with an aggregate amount of up to €40 million.

Orexia and Inexia will obtain a portfolio of related patents and have the rights to exploit a series of Orexin OX1 and OX2 positive modulators and products derived.

Orexia will focus on the development of oral therapies while Inexia will steer development of candidates for intranasal delivery using the Optinose Exhalation Delivery System. 

Japanese owned parent company Sosei Group Corporation will retain an equity holding in both businesses and receive R & D payments as well as further payments on the achievement of pre-defined development milestones.

The funding committed by Medicxi, will enable the further development and optimisation of lead candidates for oral or intranasal administration into clinical development and through to proof-of-concept, utilising Sosei Heptares’ platform, discovery and clinical development expertise including extensive experience of neurological disorders. 

Specific target indications will be determined as the programmes advance, and will include narcolepsy, a rare sleep disorder.

The orexin system is a key regulator of behavioural arousal, wakefulness and sleep. The loss of the orexin neurons has been shown to be strongly linked to multiple neurological conditions including narcolepsy. In this indication, orexin receptors remain intact and functional, providing an opportunity for therapeutic intervention.

The primary target indication of narcolepsy is characterised by frequent transitions between states of wakefulness and sleep and the inability of maintaining a wakeful state. 

Narcoleptic patients experience excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS), manifesting as attacks of falling asleep at unpredictable times, as well as often suffering from cataplexy, a sudden debilitating but transient weakening of muscle tone that can cause sufferers to collapse. 

Dr Malcolm Weir, executive VP and chief R & D officer of Sosei Heptares, said: “The asset-centric approach pioneered by Medicxi has proved to be very successful for developing discreet and novel assets and for creating significant value, and allows us seamlessly to transfer our ongoing activities and IP into these two special purpose vehicles.

“We see great promise in the orexin agonist program and believe it can be advanced significantly with this focused funding and within these new structures in which we retain a significant stake.”

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