Astellas quietly cuts Cytokinetics R&D pact as $450M-plus in biobucks goes up in smoke


Japanese pharma Astellas has culled a muscle disease research pact with Cytokinetics two years after a partnered med between the two flopped in a midstage test.

Through a Securities and Exchange Commission filing, Californian biotech Cytokinetics said Astellas had decided to walk away from the deal, extended last year into this, for skeletal sarcomere activators to help in conditions that stop normal muscle contraction.

Despite that extension, Astellas wants out, and it's taking its promise of hundreds of millions of biobucks with it. The pharma had originally signed up to nab exclusive rights to co-develop and sell skeletal sarcomere activators in all indications.

In turn, Cytokinetics had the right to co-promote and do some sales work in the U.S., Canada and/or Europe “under agreed scenarios.” Should these drugs have been taken forward solely by Astellas, Cytokinetics could have seen $25 million to $35 million per product, up to $250 million for all products, as well as sales milestones of up to $200 million and royalties that ranged from a mid-single-digit level to low double-digits.

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Astellas extended the deal a year back so it would keep going until March 31 of this year; however, from November, the deal will be cut up. “Upon effective date of the termination, all licenses and other rights granted to Astellas under the Agreement will terminate,” the biotech said in the filing.

No reason was given, nor updates on the programs. Cytokinetics is set to release its financials later this week.

This comes two years after Cytokinetics’ reldesemtiv missed the primary endpoint in a phase 2 amyotrophic lateral sclerosis trial. The Astellas-partnered drug failed to beat placebo on a lung function test in May 2019. The drug is also in tests for spinal muscular atrophy. This drug has been developed under a different research pact.

It also comes a few months after Amgen culled its pact with the biotech for heart failure omecamtiv mecarbil after unimpressive phase 3 data.