Japan-based Astellas Pharma has acquired British gene therapy company Quethera, which primarily develops new treatments for ocular diseases such as glaucoma.

Under a purchase agreement, Astellas is set to pay a total consideration of approximately £85m ($108.5m) for Quethera, including upfront and contingents.

The deal adds Quethera’s ophthalmic gene therapy programme to Astellas’ portfolio.

This pre-clinical candidate leverages a recombinant adeno-associated viral vector system (rAAV) to deliver therapeutic genes into target retinal cells to treat glaucoma.

In pre-clinical models, the therapy is said to have resulted in significantly improved survival of retinal ganglion cells (RGCs).

Astellas expects the therapy to help in addressing refractory glaucoma without the requirement for intraocular pressure (IOP).

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By GlobalData
“We believe the rAAV programme has potential as a new therapeutic option for the treatment of refractory glaucoma.”

Astellas president and CEO Kenji Yasukawa said: “We believe the rAAV programme 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 will become a wholly owned subsidiary of Astellas after the completion of the transaction.

Quethera CEO Peter Widdowson said: “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.

“This deal enables us to accelerate our evaluation of this investigational technology programme to see if we can slow or prevent disease progression for these patients.”

Founded in 2013, Quethera has been backed by UK Innovation and Science Seed Fund (UKI2S) with co-investment from Cambridge Enterprise.