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Astellas bulks up immuno-oncology pipeline with $665m Xyphos deal

Closely follows $3bn acquistion of gene therapy specialist Audentes

Astellas

Japanese pharma company Astellas has inked a deal to buy out US-based biotech Xyphos, to bolster its immuno-oncology pipeline. 

This deal closely follows Astellas’ $3bn acquisition of gene therapy specialist Audentes Therapeutics last month, and will see the Japanese pharma strengthen its capabilities in developing CAR-T therapies for oncology.

Both deals come on the heels of a major R&D reorganisation at Astellas, which included cutting programmes and staff to streamline its focus in areas like immuno-oncology, cell therapies in ophthalmology and mitochondria-targeting small-molecule drugs for neuromuscular diseases.

Under the terms of the deal, Xyphos will be paid $120m upfront, with milestone payments worth up to $665m. In return, Astellas will gain Xyphos’ cell therapy technology platform and its expert research team.

This synthetic biology platform works by directing cells in the immune system to target single or multiple tumour antigens, while also controlling the immune cell proliferation and endurance.

The proprietary molecules can be delivered to natural immune cells or engineered chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) cells to develop immunotherapies for various cancers.

Xyphos’ first CAR-T product candidate is already in pre-clinical development, and is due to begin testing in humans in 2021.

“At Astellas, immuno-oncology is a primary focus of our research and development strategy, and we are working on the development of next-generation cancer immuno-therapy using new modalities/technologies,” said Kenji Yasukawa, president and CEO of Astellas.

“The innovative technology in development at Xyphos fits perfectly in advancing our immuno-oncology strategy to create and deliver value for patients.

Combining this technology with our capabilities in cell therapy that we have been working on so far, we can create next-generation high-function cells and maximise the value of our technology,” he added.

Astellas is no stranger to biotech deals, having bulked out its pipeline across a number of notable acquisitions. This includes a deal made in 2018, when Astellas bought out gene therapy biotech Juventas for an exclusive option on its non-viral gene therapy JVS-100.

The Japanese drugmaker has been building a significant presence in gene therapy for a number of years, with various partnerships in places for a myriad of programmes in the area.

Article by
Lucy Parsons

2nd January 2020

From: Sales

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