The deal was completed for a cost of up to £85m ($109m), made up of an upfront fee and potential milestone payments.
Astellas has snapped up Quethera to gain access to its ophthalmic gene therapy programmes, which sees delivery achieved through the use of recombinant adeno-associated viral vector system (rAAv) – a process that sees genes distributed directly into retinal cells for the treatment of glaucoma.
Explaining the decision to acquire Quethera, a spokesperson for Astellas suggested it represented a portfolio shift for the Japanese company: “Astellas has prioritised ophthalmology as a new therapeutic area of research as part of the company’s strategy for sustainable growth. Astellas is focused on treatments for disorders of the posterior segment of the eye where no standard drug treatments are available.”
The decision marks part of a concerted shift away from working with antibody-drug conjugates and into other areas, such as stem cell therapies and this most recent gene therapy-associated acquisition.
The spokesperson for Astellas told us that its Institute for Regenerative Medicine is focused on two active Phase II projects involved in treating age-related and Stargardt macular degeneration. Quethera’s lead candidate was made in collaboration with an unnamed contract manufacturing organisation (CMO), in “very small titer volumes”, the spokesperson added.
The company did not disclose its specific plans for the candidate, nor when it may be ready to reach human studies.