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Astellas buys private UK gene therapy company specializing in treating glaucoma

The gene therapy company focuses on developing treatments for glaucoma
eye treatment
Astellas is a Japanese pharmaceutical company producing innovative pharma products

Astellas Pharma Inc (OTC:APLMF) (SE:4503) announced on Friday it is buying privately held Quethera, a gene therapy company focused on developing treatments for eye disease, especially glaucoma.

Japan's Astellas acquired UK-based Quethera's program using a recombinant system which introduces therapeutic genes into target retinal cells to treat glaucoma, a disease that damages the eye's optic nerve from a buildup of fluid in the front part of the organ. Glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness for people over 60 years old, according to the American Academy of Opthalmology.

Astellas president and chief executive Kenji Yasukawa said the deal "would address a high unmet medical need in glaucoma patients who are at risk of losing their eyesight."

Shares of Astellas in Tokyo ended on Friday at 1,853 yen, off 0.4%, and having hit a session high of 1,862 yen, just short of the 52-week high of 1,869 yen.

In the US OTC market, Astellas shares finished on Thursday down 0.2% at US$16.62.

Under the terms of the agreement, Astellas may pay up to 85 million pounds (US$108.5mln) to Quethera shareholders in buying the company. Upon closing the transaction, Quethera becomes a wholly owned subsidiary of Astellas.

The impact of the transaction on Astellas' financial results for the fiscal year ending on March 31, 2019, is "expected to be immaterial," according to Astellas.

Astellas is based in Tokyo, Japan, which develops pharmaceutical products. Quethera is based in Cambridge, UK. It focuses on the treatment of diseases that blind people. 

Contact Rene Pastor at [email protected]


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