Sosei, GSK agree to develop inflammatory bowel disease treatment

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Company logo of pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline is seen at their Stevenage facility

(Reuters) - Japan's Sosei Group Corp said late on Sunday it agreed with GlaxoSmithKline to collaborate on developing treatments for some digestive tract illnesses caused by immune disorders.

Sosei and the British drugmaker will work on developing oral medicines that will target the GPR35 protein, a type of cell receptor which has been linked to gastric conditions like inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), in which parts of the digestive system swell up.

As part of the agreement, GSK will get global rights to a number of GPR35 agonists developed by Sosei for upfront payment, potential near-term development milestones and research funding of up to 34 million pounds ($46 million), Sosei said.

GPR35 belongs to the G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) group, which helps with humans' sense of smell, taste, pain, vision and some other cellular communication, acting as a doorway conveying messages to the cell to act appropriately.

Agonists are molecules that bind to a cell receptor and induce a biological response.

"Using genetics to prioritise potential treatments for a challenging immune disorder like IBD exemplifies the approach we are taking at GSK," said John Lepore, senior vice president of research at GSK.

IBD is an umbrella term for conditions like Crohn's disease and Ulcerative colitis. There were nearly 7 million cases of IBD in 2017 worldwide, according to a study published in The Lancet early this year.

Sosei could also get additional payments of up to 336 million pounds upon reaching some targets, the pharmaceutical firm said.

($1 = 0.7401 pounds)

(Reporting by Yadarisa Shabong and Aby Jose Koilparambil in Bengaluru; Editing by Maju Samuel)