On 10 August 2018, Japanese Astellas Pharma bought privately-owned biotech Quethera for $109 million, gaining access to its gene therapy focused on developing novel treatments for glaucoma and eye disorders.
Midven’s UK Innovation & Science Seed Fund (UKI2S) was the founding investor with follow-on, co-investment from Cambridge Enterprise.
Kenji Yasukawa, Ph.D., President and CEO of Astellas commented: “This acquisition demonstrates Astellas’ commitment to proactively incorporate state-of-the-art scientific and technological advances and turn them into VALUE for patients,” We believe the rAAV program has potential as a new therapeutic option for the treatment of refractory glaucoma through an intraocular pressure (IOP)-independent mechanism. It would address a high unmet medical need in glaucoma patients who are at risk of losing their eyesight.
“Quethera’s 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 Peter Widdowson, Ph.D., CEO, Quethera. “This deal enables us to accelerate our evaluation of this investigational technology program to see if we can slow or prevent disease progression for these patients.”
Glaucoma is the leading cause of irreversible blindness worldwide. In England and Wales, the NHS estimates that there are more than 500,000 people who have glaucoma. Many more people have undiagnosed glaucoma because they are unaware that their vision has been damaged by the disease. Recent estimates predict that by 2020 there will be 11 million people worldwide blind due to glaucoma.
Under the terms of the purchase agreement, Astellas may pay up to $109 million in aggregate consideration (upfront and contingent payments) to Quethera shareholders to acquire Quethera. The full announcement may be found here.