August 6, 2015 / 7:13 AM / 3 years ago

AstraZeneca widens cancer push with up to $500 million Heptares deal

LONDON (Reuters) - AstraZeneca (AZN.L) expanded its push into cancer immunotherapy on Thursday by striking a deal potentially worth more than $500 million (320 million pounds with Sosei’s (4565.T) biotech unit Heptares, giving it rights to an experimental treatment.

A sign is seen at an AstraZeneca site in Macclesfield, central England May 19, 2014. REUTERS/Phil Noble

AstraZeneca said it would pay an initial $10 million for exclusive global rights to HTL-1071, a so-called adenosine A2A receptor antagonist, and could pay more than $500 million if the product is a commercial success.

The companies will also collaborate to discover further A2A receptor-blocking compounds for use in cancer immunotherapy.

AstraZeneca is betting on new cancer treatments to revive its fortunes as older medicines go off patent.

British-based Heptares specialises in work on an important class of proteins known as G-protein-coupled receptors, or GPCRs, which serve as a main conduit for chemicals to get past a cell’s membrane and be taken up by a cell.

It was acquired by Japan’s Sosei in February for up to $400 million.

The importance of GPCRs was recognised in 2012 when the Nobel Prize for chemistry was awarded to two American scientists who pioneered research in the field.

Reporting by Ben Hirschler; Editing by David Holmes

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