German drugmaker Boehringer Ingelheim has teamed up with UK-based Sosei Heptares to develop and commercialise Sosei’s portfolio of GPR52 agonists to treat schizophrenia.

The two companies have signed a global collaboration and exclusive option-to-license agreement, focused on novel G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) target.

The collaboration aims to improve patient outcomes by simultaneously addressing positive, negative, and cognitive symptoms of schizophrenia.

Under the terms of the agreement, Sosei will receive €25m in upfront payment and is eligible for an option exercise payment of €60m and further milestone payments totalling up to €670m.

The British drugmaker is also eligible to receive customary tiered royalties for a clinical-stage asset on future Boehringer Ingelheim product sales.

Boehringer Ingelheim CNS discovery research global head Hugh Marston said: “We’re very excited to enter this partnership with Sosei Heptares with this novel approach, which aims to address a huge unmet need of those living with schizophrenia.

“This partnership is highly complementary to our other development programs aiming to bring a new precision medicine approach to the treatment of mental health disorders with therapies, which we hope will transform the lives of those living with schizophrenia.”

Boehringer Ingelheim can license Sosei’s portfolio of GPR52 agonists upon completion of the ongoing Phase 1 and Phase 1b trial, and further Phase 2 enabling activities with HTL0048149.

Sosei will control and sponsor the clinical trials until option exercise, which is expected in 2025.

The licensed portfolio will include HTL0048149 and multiple differentiated backup compounds designed by Sosei using its StaR technology and structure-based drug design (SBDD) platform.

Schizophrenia is a serious condition characterised by three clusters of symptoms, including positive symptoms, such as psychosis, delusions, and hallucinations.

The disease also involves negative symptoms such as social withdrawal and apathy, and cognitive symptoms such as attention, planning and memory deficits.

Developing a new schizophrenia treatment targeting GPR52 can address all three clusters of symptoms of schizophrenia providing a novel precision treatment.

It can be developed based on the location of the receptor in the two areas of the brain, the striatum, and the prefrontal cortex, said Sosei Heptares.

Heptares Therapeutics president and Sosei Heptares UK R&D head Matt Barnes said: “This collaboration highlights the significant potential GPR52 has shown in preclinical research as a novel, first-in-class target for the treatment of schizophrenia and related neurological disorders.

“We’re delighted to partner with Boehringer Ingelheim and leverage its leading expertise in neurological disease research and innovation.

“Together, we will focus on accelerating the development of this highly innovative program which is currently in a Phase 1 clinical research study, towards patients in need.”