Astellas to buy GPCR specialist Ogeda for €500M upfront

Astellas has struck a deal to buy Ogeda for €500 million ($534 million) upfront. The takeover will give Astellas a potential nonhormonal treatment for menopausal hot flashes that cleared a phase 2a trial earlier this year.

Gosselies, Belgium-based Ogeda has accepted an offer of €500 million upfront and up to €300 million in clinical and regulatory milestones from Astellas. Ogeda, which until October was known as Euroscreen, landed the buyout bid on the strength of clinical data generated by its lead asset, NK3 receptor antagonist fezolinetant, also known as ESN364.

In January, Ogeda posted data from a phase 2a trial of fezolinetant. The study linked the asset to sharp declines in the frequency of moderate-to-severe hot flushes after four and 12 weeks of treatment. Investigators saw similarly steep drops in the severity of hot flushes over the same time periods. In each case, the reduction seen in the treatment arm comfortably bested that achieved in the placebo cohort.

Those data added to Ogeda’s belief fezolinetant could be a fast-acting nonhormonal treatment for menopausal hot flushes. Ogeda’s interest was initially piqued by evidence fezolinetant acts on the KNDy neuron. This neuron tells the ovaries to increase estrogen synthesis and plays a role in temperature regulation. When menopausal ovaries are unable to synthesize enough estrogen, the KNDy neuron sends more signals in a futile attempt to raise levels of the hormone. These signals affect temperature regulation, resulting in hot flushes.

Ogeda thinks fezolinetant can cut KNDy activity by acting directly on the neuron. Astellas evidently shares Ogeda’s belief in the mechanism of action and has placed a €500 million bet on fezolinetant becoming a new option for treating menopause-related vasomotor symptoms (MR-VMS), such as hot flushes and night sweats.

“The transaction fits with our strategy to deliver innovative drugs in therapeutic areas with high unmet medical needs. Ogeda has been pioneering the development of a NK3 receptor antagonist fezolinetant for the treatment of MR-VMS," Astellas CEO Yoshihiko Hatanaka said in a statement. “We aim to deliver this potential new therapeutic option to those patients who are suffering from MR-VMS.”

Ogeda will become a wholly owned subsidiary of Astellas. The deal will only close once certain conditions are met, but Astellas has the support of Ogeda and its shareholders. Investors stand to profit handsomely from the takeover. Vesalius Biocapital II Partners and SRIW led a €10 million Series A in the company in 2012, and were again involved when SFPI-FPIM and Fund+ led it to a €16 million Series B in 2015. Those financings bankrolled the transformation of the company.

The history of Ogeda dates back to 1994, when Euroscreen spun off from the University of Brussels. Perkin Elmer bought the GPCR products part of that business for €14 million in 2007, leaving behind a drug discovery service provider and nascent biotech. Using cash from the Series A and B rounds, Ogeda got fezolinetant into the clinic and through the phase 2a. Ogeda had planned to move fezolinetant into a phase 2b itself later this year, but has now decided to cash out instead.