Astellas gains three cancer drugs with $405m Potenza buy

Astellas has taken an option to acquire US biotech Potenza Therapeutics after the companies spent more than three years working together on cancer immunotherapies.

The Japanese pharma said the acquisition marks the successful outcome of a collaboration that began in 2015 to build a portfolio of novel immuno-oncology therapies.

Through the R&D collaboration Astellas and Massachusetts-based Potenza have discovered and developed three novel drugs that are responsive or resistant to the current generation of immunotherapies.

The drugs that will be added to Astellas’ portfolio include phase 1 drugs SP 8374/PTZ-201, an anti-TIGIT antibody immune checkpoint inhibitor and ASP 1948/PTZ-329, an anti-NRP1 antibody inhibiting T-regulatory cells.

It also includes ASP1951/PTZ-522, a novel format GITR agonistic antibody for T cell priming and costimulation, which has recently cleared for clinical development by the FDA.

The deal closed yesterday and Potenza has become a wholly-owned subsidiary of Astellas, establishing a fully owned clinical immune-oncology pipeline.

Astellas paid $164.6 million upfront to acquire Potenza, and shareholders will be eligible for additional payments totalling up to $240.1 million, depending on how clinical development progresses.

Astellas is reviewing the impact of the acquisition on its financial results for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2019.

Kenji Yasukawa, Astellas’ president and CEO said: “This transaction underscores Astellas’ commitment to innovation and scientific partnerships to advance our creation of value for patients.”

“In oncology, Astellas has focused on developing treatments for unmet medical needs with novel mechanisms of action and modalities. We believe the novel assets we have developed with Potenza have the potential to make an even more pronounced difference for patients in need.”

Dan Hicklin, president and CEO of Potenza, added: “I am pleased that these therapies will now have access to the resources of a large international company, with world-class R&D and the strategic and financial backing to support the development of these innovative potential new medicines for cancer patients in need.”

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