Joining a global M&A spree, Astellas reserves $2B for a spate of new biotech acquisitions

Astellas is joining Takeda and a growing pack of global drug hunters in the M&A game.

Company execs are telling reporters in Japan that they plan to spend close to $2 billion over the next few years to snap up small biotechs and new drugs for its pipeline.

Chikashi Takeda

“Sixty percent of our cash holdings (roughly 330 billion yen) will be devoted to large-scale business investments, especially in mergers and acquistions,” CFO Chikashi Takeda told Nikkei Asian Review.

The move comes just a couple of months after Kenji Yasukawa took the reins as the new CEO at Astellas, with the former chief strategy exec pursuing a new growth plan he helped create. 

Astellas — partnered on Xtandi — has deep ties to the US industry.

The company also has a taste for risk when it comes to dealmaking. Late last year the pharma company paid $165.5 million to acquire the mitochondria energy specialist Mitobridge, adding to the $60 million in equity it already owned. That company was inspired by lab research conducted by Salk’s Ron Evans.

Astellas also partnered with Universal Cells in Seattle on creating a new generation of off-the-shelf cell therapies.

Their deals don’t always pay off, of course. A partnership with Vical, for example, has had back-to-back failures, most recently on a cytomegalovirus vaccine. And last summer Astellas punted Agensys’ antibody work and its 220 staffers after growing disenchanted with their ADCs. Astellas is partnered with Seattle Genetics, though, on enfortumab vedotin, which just recently earned a breakthrough drug designation.

Wherever Astellas lands next, they’ll likely have plenty of competition for any high profile assets on the biotech market. A string of buyouts by Sanofi, Alexion and others — with Takeda prepping a bid for Shire — has whipped up intense interest in M&A and the overnight windfalls they can generate for investors.

Right now, the big question is who’s next.

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Research Scientist - Immunology
Recursion Pharmaceuticals Salt Lake City, UT
Director of Operations
Atlas Venture Cambridge, MA

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