Astellas Pharma And Potenza Therapeutics Partner To Build A Portfolio Of Immuno-Oncology Therapeutics

Exclusive collaboration includes option for Astellas to acquire Potenza.


TOKYO and CAMBRIDGE, Mass., April 21, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- Astellas Pharma Inc. (Tokyo: 4503) and Potenza Therapeutics, Inc., a biotechnology company developing a portfolio of immuno-oncology programs, today announced an exclusive research and development collaboration. The goal of the collaboration is to advance a portfolio consisting of programs with novel mechanisms of action targeting immune checkpoint pathways, co-stimulatory signals and regulatory T cells. The agreement includes an option that allows for the future acquisition of Potenza by Astellas on pre-determined terms at the end of the collaboration period.

"We are at the beginning of a new era in cancer therapy. First generation immuno-oncology therapeutics have demonstrated meaningful clinical benefit to patients with certain cancers. The new targets and pathways that Potenza is working on offer promise for continued expansion of immunotherapy treatment options," said Daniel Hicklin, Ph.D., co-founder of Potenza and the company's chief executive officer. "We are excited to partner with Astellas to progress our programs in support of their strategy to become a global leader in oncology and next-generation therapeutics."

Under the terms of the collaboration agreement, Potenza will lead drug discovery activities and deliver development candidates to Astellas. Astellas will be responsible for clinical development activities and commercialization. Specific financial terms will not be disclosed, but include an equity investment, option fee, research funding, and potential future acquisition and milestone payments.

"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," said Kenji Yasukawa, Ph.D., senior vice president and chief strategy officer of Astellas. "I am pleased that we are collaborating with Potenza, whose team of scientific founders, management and venture capitalists all have a proven track record in the field of cancer immunotherapy. This collaboration is one piece of Astellas' cancer immunotherapy strategy, and we will continue to make aggressive investments in this field."

Potenza's founders and scientific advisory board include world-renowned pioneers in cancer immunotherapy including Drew Pardoll, MD, Ph.D., Abeloff professor of Oncology, director, Cancer Immunology, The Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins; Jedd Wolchok, M.D., Ph.D., chief, Melanoma and Immunotherapeutics Service, Memorial Sloan-Kettering; Ana Anderson, Ph.D., assistant professor, Center for Neurologic Disease, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School; Charles Drake, M.D., Ph.D., professor of Oncology, co-director Prostate Cancer Multi-Disciplinary Clinic; The Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins; Vijay Kuchroo, Ph.D., DVM, professor, Dept. of Neurology, director, Evergrande Center for Immunologic Diseases, Harvard Medical School; Dario Vignali, Ph.D., vice chair & professor of Immunology; co-leader of the Cancer Immunology Program, University of Pittsburgh.

Previously, Potenza closed a Series A equity financing of $38 million in December 2014 which was led by founding investor MPM Capital, with InterWest Partners and Astellas Venture Management LLC participating.

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