- Astellas Pharma has acquired Quethera, a U.K. company with an ophthalmic gene therapy program that has produced a pre-clinical candidate for the treatment of glaucoma.
- The acquisition could cost up to 85 million pounds ($109 million) and adds to Astellas' R&D ophthalmology pipeline, which currently consists of only one drug, ASP7317, a cell therapy for dry age-related macular degeneration and Stardgart’s macular degeneration.
- It's latest bid by Astellas to beef up its pipeline through M&A. Over the past few years, the Japanese pharma has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to bring in-house new technologies and clinical-stage medications for therapeutic areas like cancer and the women’s health market, among others.
Japan-based drugmakers, including Astellas, Takeda and Eisai, have recently been active in dealmaking to build out their portfolios and secure a stronger footing on the global market. Astellas’ growth strategy, for example, has relied on growing its oncology pipeline.
Last year, Astellas announced it would shutter its Agensys research operations in Santa Monica, California, as it moved away from antibody drug conjugates research and into new technologies, particularly in immuno-oncology.
And in late 2016, the company acquired immune-oncology drugmaker Ganymed for $461 million. The deal gave Astellas access to Ganymed’s treatment for gastroesophageal cancer, IMAB362, which extended overall survival and progression-free survival for some patients with gastroesophageal cancer in late stage trials.
Though cancer remains a focus, Astellas has also expanded its research in gynecology, autoimmune conditions and even rare mitochondrial diseases.
It acquired Belgian drugmaker Ogeda in 2017 through a deal worth up to $850 million in order to add fezolinetant, a drug being tested for menopausal hot flashes, polycystic ovary syndrome and uterine fibroids, to its R&D pipeline.
The transaction came several years after Astellas exercised an exclusive option to buy out Mitobridge in a $450 million deal, making the biotech a wholly-owned subsidiary. In 2013, Astellas and Mitobridge agreed to collaborate in discovering and developing drugs designed to improve mitochondrial function.
So far, the most promising candidate of that collaboration is MA- 0211, which is in early-stage trials for treatment of Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Drugs that improve mitochondrial function are thought to have potential for treating genetic, metabolic and neurodegenerative disorders, as well as conditions associated with aging.
Astellas' latest acquisition gives it access to the gene therapy QTA020V, which showed strong efficacy results in several presentations at the 2017 Association for Research in Vision in Ophthalmology Conference. The drug resulted in a 61% reduction in retinal ganglion cell loss in a widely used experimental model of glaucoma.
Not all of Astellas’ M&A moves have panned out, though. Earlier this year, an experimental vaccine that was the result of a partnership between Astellas and Vical failed to protect hematopoietic stem cell transplant recipients from cytomegalovirus (CMV) in a Phase 3 study.