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Astellas Pharma Inc. and Quethera Limited today announced that Astellas has acquired Quethera, a gene therapy company headquartered in the United Kingdom that is focused on developing novel treatments for ocular disorders, such as glaucoma.
Through this transaction, Astellas has acquired 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 pre-clinical candidate of the program has demonstrated significant improved survival of retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) in preclinical models.
“This acquisition demonstrates Astellas’ commitment to proactively incorporate state-of-the-art scientific and technological advances and turn them into VALUE for patients,” said Kenji Yasukawa, Ph.D., President and CEO, Astellas, which is based in Tokyo. “We believe the rAAV program has potential as a new therapeutic option for the treatment of normal 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.”
“Quethera’s novel technology approach is focused on exploring potential treatment options for common ophthalmic diseases, such as glaucoma, that can cause blindness and severely affect the quality of life for patients,” said Peter Widdowson, Ph.D., CEO, Quethera. “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.”
Quethera was co-founded in 2013 by Dr Peter Widdowson and Professor Keith Martin (Professor and Head of Ophthalmology, Department of Clinical Neurosciences, University of Cambridge). Founding investor UK Innovation and Science Seed Fund backed Quethera with co-investment from Cambridge Enterprise in August 2015 and followed with subsequent investment.
Under the terms of the purchase agreement, Astellas may pay up to £85 million in aggregate consideration (upfront and contingent payments) to Quethera shareholders to acquire the company. Quethera will become a wholly owned subsidiary of Astellas following the close of the acquisition.
The impact of this transaction on Astellas’ financial results for the fiscal year ending 31 March 2019, will be immaterial.