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Otsuka to buy cancer biopharma Astex

Takes control of company behind Dacogen in $886m deal

Otsuka Pharma logoJapanese pharma firm Otsuka has agreed to purchase cancer specialist Astex Pharmaceuticals in a deal worth $886m.

Otsuka will acquire all outstanding shares of Astex for $8.50-per-share in cash to take control of a portfolio of cancer drugs and drug candidates, as well as the drug discovery platform Pyramid.

Astex' lead product is Dacogen (decitabine), which is approved for the treatment of myelodysplastic syndromes and for acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) in patients over 65 years of age.

Astex sold US commercial rights for Dacogen to Eisai and for the rest of the world to Johnson & Johnson, although still gained royalty revenues of $280m during 2012.

The company is looking to follow that success with its pipeline of cancer drug candidates, which include SGI-110, a subcutaneous therapy that affects the expression of genes. It is currently in several clinical studies assessing its effectiveness in several haematological and oncology indications, including MDS, AML, ovarian cancer and liver cancer.

Once the acquisition goes through, Otsuka will also take control of AT13387, Astex' investigational HSP90 inhibitor in development for both prostate cancer and lung cancer.

On top of these assets, Astex also has development deals with several major pharma firms, such as Novartis, AstraZeneca and J&J subsidiary Janssen, as well as the cancer charity Cancer Research UK.

This will bolster Otsuka's cancer portfolio, which is spearheaded by Sprycel (dasatinib), developed in partnership with Bristol-Myers Squibb for the treatment of Philadelphia chromosome-positive chronic myeloid leukaemia.

Otsuka also sees potential in the Astex deal beyond cancer, with Dr Taro Iwamoto, Otsuka's president, commenting that the Pyramid drug discovery platform could support the development of treatments for the central nervous system.

Article by
Thomas Meek

5th September 2013

From: Research

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