Astellas Pharma Inc. and Drais Pharmaceuticals Inc. announced that they have entered into a uniquely structured partnership to develop and commercialize an Astellas compound. As part of the agreement, Astellas will transfer ownership of ASP3291, a melanocortin receptor agonist for the potential treatment of ulcerative colitis, from its pipeline to Telsar Pharma, Inc., a virtual company that will be operated by the Drais executive team. All Telsar development activities will be handled by the Drais executive team, which has substantial clinical development experience.
InterWest Partners and Sutter Hill Ventures (two U.S. venture capital firms that are the lead investors in Drais) plus Astellas Venture Management LLC (the corporate venture capital arm of Astellas) will invest a total of $14 million into Telsar. The funds will be used to further the development of ASP3291, with Drais serving as the exclusive provider of development services. Drais and Astellas will also seek further opportunities to put Astellas compounds into this innovative partnership.
“The unique structure of this partnership is reflective of Astellas’ new ‘Multi-Track R&D’ approach,” said Yoshihiko Hatanaka, president and CEO of Astellas. “This new strategy enables us to move our promising compounds forward without any disruption in the development process. Additionally, this new approach allows us to optimize costs and control risks while accessing outside capital and expertise. We believe the partnership with Drais is an excellent opportunity for us to increase our ability to bring innovative medicines to patients.”
“The team at Drais is thrilled to be working again so closely with Astellas on this innovative and creative new development model,” said Dr. Donna L. Tempel, co-founder, president and CEO of Drais. “We are also grateful to our long-time investors, InterWest Partners and Sutter Hill Ventures, for supporting the effort it took to get this collaboration off the ground. We believe this will be a highly beneficial partnership for all involved and hope to expand it to additional compounds in the future.”
The participants in the partnership have all worked together successfully in the past. Dr. Tempel and fellow Drais co-founder, Dr. Robert E. Desjardins, were previously the senior management of Yamanouchi R&D (a precursor company to Astellas) in Paramus, NJ. Later they served as the executive team of AkaRx, acquired by Eisai/MGI for $300 million in 2010. Dr. Arnold Oronsky, general partner at InterWest, and Dr. Jeff Bird, managing director at Sutter Hill Ventures, are both board members and investors in Drais; they previously held the same positions at AkaRx. Astellas Venture Management was also an investor in AkaRx.
Under the terms of the agreement, Astellas will transfer to Telsar all rights and assets related to ASP3291, whose Phase 2a study is currently being initiated. Telsar will be responsible for all development, manufacturing and commercialization activities and their associated costs. Astellas is entitled to receive an upfront payment and royalties on future sales of ASP3291. Astellas also has the right of first exclusive negotiation for future partnering activities related to the compound and the right of first refusal for the Japanese market. The company also has the right of non-exclusive negotiation for other markets.
Date: April 26, 2012
Source: Astellas Pharma Inc.
Filed Under: Drug Discovery