HONG KONG – Astellas Pharma Inc. proceeded with an exclusive option to acquire Potenza Therapeutics Inc. under a warrant purchase agreement. Tokyo-based Astellas paid Potenza an upfront fee of $164.6 million to acquire the Cambridge, Mass.-based biopharma. Upon closing, Potenza will be a wholly owned subsidiary. Shareholders of Potenza will be in for a windfall, as they are eligible for additional payments that total up to $240.1 million, depending on the progress of the various programs in clinical development.
The acquisition is the culmination of a collaborative agreement signed between the two in 2015 to build a portfolio of novel immuno-oncology (I-O) therapies.
Astellas' collaboration with Potenza has yielded promising results. Together, the companies have discovered and developed three new drugs in just three and a half years.
"Through its acquisition of Potenza, Astellas will establish a competitive and fully owned clinical I-O pipeline," Daisuke Tanabe, a spokesman for Astellas, told BioWorld.
"Potenza's I-O pipeline also provides platform for I-O combinations with Astellas' existing non-I-O programs for life cycle management and future novel I-O combinations," he added. "The acquisition of Potenza furthers Astellas' global leadership in oncology and next-generation therapeutics. This transaction underscores Astellas' commitment to innovation and scientific partnerships to advance its creation of value for patients with cancer."
"Despite the recent clinical success of checkpoint-blocking monoclonal antibodies targeting PD-1, PD-L1 and CTLA-4, there still remains significant unmet medical need in non-responder patients and unresponsive tumor types. Astellas is focusing on this unmet medical need with novel mechanisms of action and modalities," Kenji Yasukawa, Astellas president and CEO said in 2015.
In a more recent statement, he declared that "the novel assets we have developed with Potenza have the potential to make an even more pronounced difference for patients in need."
The new treatment candidates have the potential to treat different types of cancers that are non-responsive or resistant to the current generation of I-O therapies.
This portfolio of programs targeting immune stimulation, immune checkpoint inhibition, and regulatory T-cell function includes:
"Over the past three and a half years, we have enjoyed a successful and productive partnership with Astellas. I am pleased that these therapies will now have access to the resources of a large international company," said Potenza's president and CEO Dan Hicklin.
The first two candidates are currently in phase I studies, while ASP-1951/PTZ-522 recently won IND clearance.