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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