- Japanese drugmaker Astellas will invest $50 million into Taysha Gene Therapies, gaining access to the Dallas, Texas-based biotechnology company’s pipeline of experimental treatments in a deal announced Monday.
- In return, Astellas will gain a 15% stake in Taysha, as well as options to license rights to two of the company’s gene therapies currently in clinical testing. Astellas will also hold an observer seat on Taysha’s board of directors.
- While a minority shareholder, Astellas has certain preferred negotiation rights should Taysha be acquired by another company, or there be a “change of control.”
The latest investment gives Astellas a larger presence in gene therapy, an area it’s invested heavily in since 2019, when it bought Audentes Therapeutics for $3 billion. More recenty, it built a gene therapy plant in North Carolina to supply its clinical trials as well as marketing of any therapies it’s cleared to sell.
But Astellas has faced setbacks in its research expansion. In the months following the Audentes acquisition, researchers reported the deaths of three boys given Audentes’ lead gene therapy, for X-linked myotubular myopathy, causing testing to be suspended. The trial later resumed, but was halted again after the death of a fourth boy. All four had signs of liver damage following treatment with the gene therapy.
The study remains on clinical hold, as of Aug. 1 this year.
Taysha’s research is much earlier stage, as the company was spun out of the University of Texas-Southwestern’s medical school in 2020 with $30 million. The startup quickly went public, raising over $150 million in an initial public offering later that year.
Since then, however, Taysha shares have lost almost all of their value. In April, the company was forced to reduce its workforce by 35% to save cash. Shares in the company were worth about $1.50 apiece at Monday’s close.
The company is advancing gene therapies for giant axonal neuropathy and Rett syndrome, both rare central nervous system disorders. The two candidates Astellas now holds an option to license — TSHA-102 for Rett syndrome and TSHA-120 — are both in clinical testing.
Taysha is expecting to receive regulatory feedback on the latter, as well as disclose initial clinical data on the former by the end of this year.