Astellas Boosts Eye Disease Platform with Quethera

16.08.2018 -

Japan’s Astellas Pharma has acquired Cambridge, UK-based Quethera, a gene therapy company focused on developing novel treatments for eye disease, such as glaucoma.

The acquisition gives Astellas access to Quethera’s ophthalmic gene therapy program, which uses a recombinant adeno-associated viral vector system (rAAV) to introduce therapeutic genes into target retinal cells for the treatment of glaucoma. The lead preclinical candidate of the program has already demonstrated “significantly improved” survival of retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) in preclinical models, Astellas said.

“We believe the rAAV program has potential as a new therapeutic option for the treatment of refractory glaucoma through an intraocular pressure (IOP)-independent mechanism. It would address a high unmet medical need in glaucoma patients who are at risk of losing their eyesight,” said Astellas’s president and CEO, Kenji Yasukawa.

“This deal enables us to accelerate our evaluation of this investigational technology program to see if we can slow or prevent disease progression for these patients,” added Peter Widdowson, CEO of Quethera.

Under the terms, Astellas could pay up to £85 million in upfront and contingent payments for Quethera. The UK company will become a wholly owned subsidiary of Astellas once the transaction closes.

The acquisition follows two other deals Astellas has done in the past four years to add gene therapy platforms for eye disease. In 2016, it entered into a licensing agreement with CLINO Corp. for its gene therapy treatment for retinitis pigmentosa, a genetic disorder of the eye that is characterized by a progressive loss of vision. In 2014, the Tokyo-headquartered group established a research collaboration with Harvard Medical School, also on genetic treatments for retinitis pigmentosa.