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Astellas Acquires Gene Therapy Company Quethera

On Aug. 10, 2018, Astellas Pharma announced that it has acquired Quethera, a Cambridge, United Kingdom-based gene therapy company focused on developing new treatments for ocular disorders, including glaucoma.

Under the terms of the agreement, Astellas may pay up to £85 million (US$108 million) in upfront and contingent payments to Quethera shareholders. Upon the closing of the transaction, Quethera has become a wholly owned subsidiary of Astellas.

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. According to Astrellas, the lead pre-clinical candidate of the program has demonstrated significantly improved survival of retinal ganglion cells in pre-clinical models.

“We believe the rAAV program has potential as a new therapeutic option for the treatment of refractory glaucoma through an intraocular pressure-independent mechanism,” said Kenji Yasukawa, PhD, president and CEO, Astellas Pharma, in a company press release. “It would address a high unmet medical need in glaucoma patients who are at risk of losing their eyesight.”

“This deal enables us [at Quethera] to accelerate our evaluation of this investigational technology program to see if we can slow or prevent disease progression for these patients,” said Peter Widdowson, PhD, CEO, Quethera, in the release.