Astellas paying $110m for UK-based gene therapy firm

The acquisition of Quethera accelerates Astellas Pharma’s entry into the ophthalmic gene therapy space, the firm says.

Japanese drugmaker Astellas has bought Cambridge, UK-based preclinical biotech for as much as £85 million (US$110 million) and will take over development of its lead candidate, a proposed gene therapy for the treatment of refractory glaucoma through an intraocular pressure (IOP)-independent mechanism.

“This acquisition demonstrates Astellas’ commitment to proactively incorporate state-of-the-art scientific and technological advances and turn them into value for patients,” a company spokesperson told this publication.

“Through the acquisition of Quethera, Astellas will further accelerate R&D in potentially blinding conditions, directing efforts to bring novel therapies to patients at risk of losing their sight through glaucoma.”

Setup as a privately owned company, Quethera uses a recombinant adeno-associated viral vector system (rAAV) to introduce therapeutic genes into target retinal cells for the treatment of glaucoma and has shown improved survival of retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) in preclinical models.

Neither Quethera nor Astellas has gene therapy or viral vector manufacturing capabilities. When asked, Astellas refused to comment on specific production plans or schedules at this time.

Quethera is set to become a wholly owned subsidiary of Astellas after the transaction is completed.

“Quetheras 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 Quethera CEO Peter Widdowson.

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