Gene Therapy, M&A

Astellas grabs a biotech toddler in $109M buyout deal for a glaucoma gene therapy program

Astellas has snapped up a 3-year-old biotech startup which has been developing a gene therapy for glaucoma. 

Peter Widdowson

Launched in 2015, Quethera has been working on an AAV gene therapy program designed to penetrate retinal cells and deliver their cargo. In this case the team has been using animal models to show that their approach — targeting the neurotrophin Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor signaling pathway — can protect retinal ganglion cells threatened by glaucoma.

In one recent animal study, the biotech claimed a 61% retention rate of those ganglion cells — tasked with turning light into vision — which are directly threatened by glaucoma.

Keith Martin

Now Astellas is paying up to $109 million to bring the group into the fold. The Japanese company has been doing a number of deals to build up a gene therapy effort focused on the eye. Four years ago they signed a collaboration deal with Harvard’s Constance Cepko. A deal with CLINO Corporation followed on retinitis pigmentosa.

Astellas didn’t spell out the terms, just saying that the upfront and milestones add up to $109 million.

Quethera was launched by longtime Big Pharma vet Peter Widdowson and Cambridge scientist Keith Martin, after nabbing some local seed cash to get things rolling.


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