Astellas Pharma has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with UMN Pharma to co-develop and exclusively commercialise UMN’s cell culture-based influenza vaccines in Japan’s lucrative flu drug market.

Under the MoU, Astellas gains the rights for the UMN-0501 and UMN-0502 drug programmes in Japan. Financial details of the deal were not disclosed.

UMN-0501 is a cell culture-based H5N1 avian influenza vaccine that was granted orphan drug status in June 2008. It achieved subsequent successful Phase I and II clinical trials, confirming its immunogencity and safety.

UMN-0502 is a cell culture-based seasonal influenza vaccine based on three different antigens, which is currently pending a Phase I/II clinical trial programme in Japan.

The companies plan to launch the two vaccines by the end of 2014.