Astellas to pay Minovia $20M upfront, with $420M on the table per product, for mitochondrial cell therapies

The powerhouse of the cell is powering a new collaboration pact between Astellas Pharma and Minovia Therapeutics, with the latter receiving $20 million upfront for the joint work on cell therapies. 

The Japanese Big Pharma will also pay the U.S.-Israel biotech up to $420 million in biobucks for each cell therapy commercialized for diseases caused by mitochondrial dysfunction, under the terms of the deal revealed Friday.

Mitochondrial dysfunction occurs when the mitochondria, which produce much of a cell's energy, don't work as well as they should due to another disease or condition. Many conditions can lead to secondary mitochondrial dysfunction and affect other diseases, including Alzheimer's disease, muscular dystrophy, Lou Gehrig's disease, diabetes and cancer.

The collab license pact focuses specifically on allogeneic mitochondrial cell therapies. Astellas will contribute cells from its genetically-engineered, induced pluripotent stem cells. Minovia meanwhile will hand forth its mitochondrial augmentation therapy platform. The biotech is currently testing the MAT platform in a phase 1 study of Pearson Syndrome, a childhood bone marrow disease. 

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"We, at Astellas, have positioned mitochondrial biology as one of the Primary Focuses of our research and development strategy to develop therapies for patients with unmet medical needs. One of the aspirations of this Primary Focus is to establish a mitochondrial cell therapy platform," said Astellas Chief Financial Officer Naoki Okamura in a statement.

The goal is to treat diseases by transferring healthy mitochondria to restore patients' tissues. This involves isolating a patient's own cells, providing them with healthy mitochondria from a donor and then re-infusing back into the patient.  

The mitochondrial biology pact with Minovia follows Astellas' deals in the space in recent years. The Big Pharma acquired Mitobridge in late 2017 and, more recently, Nanna Therapeutics in April 2020.

The Mitobridge deal appears to have produced three clinical-stage assets for the Astellas pipeline. Mitobridge is listed as a partner on Astellas' mitochondria biology primary focus areas in a July 30 pipeline update, with a phase 2 acute kidney injury small molecule, a phase 2 primary mitochondrial myopathy small molecule and a phase 1 Duchenne muscular dystrophy treatment hopeful.

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"We share with Astellas both their passion for mitochondrial science and their commitment to patients in need of new therapies," said Natalie Yivgi-Ohana, Ph.D., Minovia’s CEO and co-founder, in a statement.

Editor's note: This article has been updated to delete an inaccurate reference to a collaboration between Takeda and PeptiDream.