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Astellas is shuttering Agensys, axing 220 jobs and moving away from ADC tech

Wataru Uchida, Astellas

A decade ago Agensys’ antibody work looked so appealing that Astellas happily paid $387 million in cash for it, reserving $150 million more in milestones. Today, though, the Japanese pharma company says it is shutting down the operation in Santa Monica, CA and moving on from antibody-drug conjugations, laying off all of the 220 staffers — unless they can land another job in the company.

Astellas made it clear that while the company is continuing to use some of the ADC tech and test drugs taken from the acquisition, it’s looking to other technologies for R&D.

In a statement to Endpoints News, the company said:

Astellas is refining its oncology strategy by expanding its investment in the research of new technologies and modalities, such as immuno-oncology (I/O), and reducing its focus on ADC research. The company believes I/O is a major area for innovation. Agensys operations, which have been primarily focused on research and discovery of ADCs, are not aligned to this strategic shift in our focus, thus we have decided to wind-down research operation at the facility. The wind-down activities began on July 26 and will be completed in the first quarter of calendar year 2018.

There are approximately 220 employees at Agensys. We will be retaining no employees past February 2018 unless they apply for and receive a position in other parts of the company. Certain employees essential to the wind-down process will be retained through first quarter 2018.

“Agensys has positively contributed to Astellas’ objective of developing innovative treatments for patients with cancer,” said Wataru Uchida, senior vice president, Astellas. “The team has provided post-Proof of Concept compounds and antibody-related technology that have been incorporated into our promising oncology pipeline. Yet, the field of research has evolved and led to a new frontier of treatment options. Expanding our investment in this new area of research and development will be critically important and help us to better address high unmet medical needs, as well as deliver innovative benefits to patients in the fight against many types of cancers.”


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