Japan’s Astellas Pharma has agreed to buy its stem cell partner Universal Cells for up to $102.5m, depending on certain milestones.
Once the deal is complete, the Seattle-based stem cell maker will become a subsidiary operating under Astellas’ Institute for Regenerative Medicine (AIRM), established in 2016.
It will also grant Astellas direct access to Universal Cells’ universal donor cell technology, used to create cell therapy products that do not require Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA) matching which the firm says dramatically reduces the risk of rejection.
Universal – also known as allogeneic or ‘off-the-shelf’ – stem cells come from a single cell line that can then be used in multiple recipients. However, such cells are subject to rejection by the patient, something Universal Cells overcomes by eliminating the expression of polymorphic HLA proteins through its recombinant adeno-associated virus (rAAV)-mediated gene editing technology.
“We have been very impressed with Universal Cells’ capabilities in cell therapy, including Universal Donor Cell technology, which led us to our initial collaboration and ultimately this acquisition,” Yoshihiko Hatanaka, Astellas CEO said.
Astellas entered into a R&D collaboration with Universal Cells in October 2017 to use the tech platforms for novel cell therapies in a deal which was expected to have net the firm up to $115m.
“This additional capability will further enable Astellas to develop potential innovative cell therapies for numerous diseases with high unmet medical needs,” Hatanaka added.