Astellas strikes tech-enabled drug repositioning deal with Biovista

Astellas has turned to Biovista for help finding new indications for some of its existing compounds. The project is underpinned by Biovista's Clinical Outcome Search Space (COSS) technology, a tool that combines literature searches and in silico modeling to spot links between drugs and targets.

Biovista has designed COSS to collect, organize and visualize information from unstructured sources. Data and text are then mined in search of correlations between drugs, targets and pathways, after which possible connections are assessed using molecular docking and cheminformatics simulations. Biovista has been plugging away at the technology for years, landing repurposing deals with Pfizer ($PFE) and Novartis ($NVS) in 2010 and 2011, respectively. The Charlottesville, VA-based company has also built itself a pipeline of preclinical cancer and neurodegenerative candidates using the tool.

While Biovista's history is dotted with collaborations with big-name biopharma companies, Astellas is the first alliance in several years with a leading player it has disclosed publicly. Biovista is confident its technology is up to the task, though. "Our very large scale systematic drug repositioning technology ... offers the advantages of speed, comprehensiveness and depth of clinical outcome exploration," Biovista President Aris Persidis said in a statement. Biovista is to apply the tool to an undisclosed number of Astellas' compounds.

The deal fits into the restructuring Astellas initiated earlier this year, in which the Japanese company set up a dedicated "Drug Repurposing and Application Management" unit. Before creating the division, the task of repurposing drugs at Astellas was split up between the different disease areas, a model that management now thinks placed insufficient emphasis on the field. Now, with Minori Saitoh heading up the repurposing operation and Biovista coming on board to lend its expertise, Astellas thinks it is better placed to uncover the hidden value of its compounds.

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