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Astellas adds to regenerative medicine unit with Ocata buy

Willpay around $379m for the cell therapy specialist

AstellasAstellas has agreed to buy cell therapy specialist Ocata Therapeutics for around $379m, boosting a regenerative medicine unit it set up in 2014. 

The deal has been set at $8.50 per share, which is a 79% premium on Ocata's closing share price at the end of last week, and it is expected to close before the end of the year.

Astellas officially opened its dedicated cell therapy unit last year, saying it wanted to concentrate on 'precision medicine' and that intended to develop a platform technology. 

By adding Ocata, the Japanese company gains a stem cell-based treatment approach - using human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) and induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) - that can apply to a number of eye diseases.

Clinical trials are already ongoing in Stargadt's macular dystrophy (SMD), dry age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and myopic macular degeneration (MMD), with the stem cell therapies aimed at restoring retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells. The company also has an early-stage programme in Crohn's disease.

Massachusetts-based Ocata is a long-standing player in cell therapy - it was founded in 1994 as Advanced Cell Technology - and renamed itself 12 months ago before listing on the Nasdaq in March this year.

The company did have a rocky ride in its early years thanks to a federal moratorium on stem cell funding, but changing attitudes in recent years have transformed its fortunes, A successful listing and fundraising - along with the advancement of the SMD and dry AMD candidates into phase III testing - have succeeded in attracting a big pharma partner. 

Astellas chief executive Yoshihiko Hatanaka said: "We highly value Ocata's R&D capabilities, including its world-leading researchers in cell therapy. We are confident that we will turn innovative science into value for patients."

With Astellas as a partner, Ocata now has the financial muscle to take on its rivals in this space, including Pfizer which recently announced its own cell therapy programme targeting RPEs in eye disease.

Article by
Phil Taylor

11th November 2015

From: Sales

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