Japanese biopharmaceutical firm Sosei Heptares has expanded its existing collaboration with AbbVie, with a new drug discovery collaboration and option-to-license agreement.

The two companies initially signed a multi-target discovery agreement in June 2020, which is focused on the inflammatory and autoimmune disease areas.

The expanded partnership will focus on discovering, developing and marketing G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR)-modulating small molecules targeting the neurological disease.

Sosei Heptares will leverage its StaR technology and structure-based drug design (SBDD) platform, while AbbVie its expertise in the neuroscience and diseases area, for the collaboration.

Under the terms of the expanded collaboration agreement, Sosei Heptares will receive an upfront payment of $40m from AbbVie.

The company is responsible for financing and conducting R&D activities until the completion of Investigational New Drug (IND) studies.

It is eligible to receive up to $40m in near-term milestone payments, over the next three years, further potential milestones of up to $1.2bn, along with tiered royalties.

AbbVie can exclusively license up to three programs and is responsible for subsequent clinical, regulatory and commercial development.

Sosei Heptares UK R&D head Matt Barnes said: “We are delighted to enter this new multi-target discovery collaboration with AbbVie in the neuroscience area, a therapeutic area in which we share deep and complementary experience and expertise.

“We have established a highly productive working relationship with our counterparts at AbbVie over the past two years through our initial collaboration and are very pleased with how this is progressing.

“We believe this strong foundation will enable us to get off to a quick start as we tackle the novel and challenging neurology targets under this new agreement.”

Sosei is focused on the discovery and early development of new medicines, leveraging its unique GPCR-targeted StaR technology and structure-based drug design capabilities.

The company has an extensive pipeline of novel medicines across various therapeutic areas, including neurology, immunology, gastroenterology and inflammatory diseases.