Astellas Buys US Bioelectronics Startup

30.10.2020 - Japanese drugmaker Astellas Pharma has agreed to buy US bioelectronics startup Iota Biosciences. The move follows their R&D agreement signed in August 2019, under which the two firms worked together on activities associated with Iota’s ultrasonic-powered bioelectronic devices, also known as neural dust, in a number of indications.

During their R&D work, the companies evaluated detailed specifications for implantable medical devices focused on multiple diseases with high unmet medicals. Clinical trials of multiple projects are expected to start in the early 2020s.

Astellas expects the acquisition, which gives access to Iota’s unique bioelectronics technology platform, will accelerate its Rx+ business, defined as healthcare solutions that combine the Tokyo-based firm’s expertise and knowledge with cutting-edge technology in the different fields of external partners.

Iota’s technology uses ultrasound to power the devices and enable wireless communication, permitting the development of unprecedented ultra-small (millimeter-sized) and battery-free implantable medical devices. Their small size means that less invasive surgery is needed, which also reduces the physical burden on patients both during and after a procedure.

Conventional devices require batteries for power supply, and wires or large electronic circuits to facilitate communication, making it difficult to reduce the size of the devices and often resulting in highly invasive implant procedures.

“The partnership between Iota Biosciences and Astellas allows us to combine our respective strengths to bring revolutionary new approaches to managing and treating diseases that affect hundreds of millions of people across the world,” said Michel Maharbiz and Jose Carmena, co-founders and co-CEOs of Iota. “A new era in bioelectronic medicine is dawning and Iota Biosciences, powered by Astellas, will be leading the charge.”

Under the terms of the acquisition, Astellas will make an initial payment of $127.5 million to purchase all of the outstanding equity in Iota that it does not already own through its US subsidiary. Astellas invested in Iota through subsidiary Astellas Venture Management in May 2018.

In addition, Iota’s shareholders will be eligible to receive further payments of up to a total of about $176.5 million, dependent on achieving predetermined milestones within certain timeframes.

The transaction is expected to close by Mar. 31, 2021.

Astellas has also committed to spend a total of $125 million over the next five years to aid Iota’s “aggressive” expansion.

Author: Elaine Burridge, Freelance Journalist