Astellas acquires Universal Cells

Astellas Pharma Inc has acquired Universal Cells Inc. Astellas will gain Universal Cells’ proprietary Universal Donor Cell technology to create cell therapy products that do not require Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA) matching, potentially overcoming a huge treatment challenge by reducing the risk of rejection.

In October 2017, the Astellas Institute for Regenerative Medicine (AIRM) and Universal Cells entered into an exclusive license agreement to utilize Universal Donor Cell technology in a single indication. The current acquisition enables Astellas to fully utilize this proprietary technology in even more therapeutic areas. The acquisition combines Astellas’ capability of establishing differentiated functional cells from pluripotent stem cells with Universal Cell’s ability to produce pluripotent stem cells that have lower immunological rejection to further enable investigation of innovative cell therapy treatments for various diseases that currently have few or no treatment options.

“We have been very impressed with Universal Cells’ capabilities in cell therapy, including Universal Donor Cell technology, which led us to our initial collaboration and ultimately this acquisition,” commented Yoshihiko Hatanaka, President and CEO, Astellas. “This additional capability will further enable Astellas to develop potential innovative cell therapies for numerous diseases with high unmet medical needs.”

“We are thrilled to be able to leverage the full potential of our Universal Donor Cell technology by becoming an intrinsic part of Astellas’ effort to fulfill the promises of Regenerative Medicine to treat diseases,” said Claudia Mitchell, CEO of Universal Cells. “The acquisition represents the recognition of the immense potential of our unique technology and of the outstanding work done by our team at Universal Cells.”

Astellas will pay up to $102.5 million of upfront and milestones to acquire 100% ownership of Universal Cells depending on achievement of certain specified clinical milestones. Universal Cells has become a wholly-owned subsidiary of Astellas following the close of the acquisition. The impact of this transaction on Astellas’ financial results for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2018 will be immaterial.