Astellas boosts funding, involvement in updated Cytokinetics collab

Building on the original 2013 R&D deal between Japan’s Astellas and Cytokinetics ($CYTK), the two have now expanded their initial collab, which will see Astellas take a greater interest in the biotech’s muscle weakness research and pay out a few more lump sales for its new options.

Under the first expansion, which focuses on skeletal muscle activators targeting amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), California’s Cytokinetics has given Astellas an option to get in more deeply on the development and commercialization of tirasemtiv--its investigational skeletal muscle activator.

On top of this, the two companies have also agreed to re-write their collab to enable the development of the experimental treatment CK-2127107 in ALS, as well as boosting their joint research on the discovery of new, next-gen skeletal muscle activators through 2017.

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“We are pleased to further expand our productive and successful collaboration with Astellas in the area of skeletal muscle activators and to align our interests with regard to tirasemtiv and ALS,” said Robert Blum, Cytokinetics’ president and CEO.

“Advancing tirasemtiv and CK-2127107 for the potential treatment of ALS reinforces our shared commitment to deliver on the promise of fast skeletal troponin activation for people living with ALS who are fighting this dreadful disease.”

“The expansion of our collaboration illustrates Astellas’ commitment to muscle disease as an important and focused therapeutic area for research as announced in our strategic plan,” added Yoshihiko Hatanaka, Astellas’ president and chief.

“ALS is a disease with significant unmet needs worldwide, and we are excited to expand our collaboration with Cytokinetics to include promising drug candidates in ALS which reflect our shared interests in muscle biology.”

As part of the deal, Cytokinetics gets $65 million in committed capital from Astellas. Whether the Japanese Big Pharma decides to use it option for tirasemtiv will all depend on the results from the VITALITY-ALS trial, as well as seeing tirasemtiv on the path to market in the U.S. and Europe. 

If Astellas does decide to use its option, the partners will enter into a global partnership that sees Cytokinetics working on tirasemtiv in North America, Europe, and other select countries, while Astellas will develop and commercialize tirasemtiv in other regions.

Cytokinetics is also then in line for an extra $100 million in payments associated with the exercise of the option, plus additional milestone payments and escalating double-digit royalties on Astellas’ sales of tirasemtiv in its territory. 

The biotech will gain another $30 million in additional R&D funding through 2017 for CK-212710--which includes Astellas’ sponsorship of Cytokinetics’ Phase II trial. Astellas originally put nearly $500 million in the table in the first iteration of the deal three years ago.

Cytokinetics has been working on small molecules that can boost body muscle where it counts. Amgen ($AMGN) initially stepped in as its main partner a decade ago, then expanded the deal in 2009 with a pact for omecamtiv mecarbil, a cardiac myosin activator that went through multiple Phase I and Phase II studies for heart failure.

However, Cytokinetics' shares ($CYTK) took a dive in the fall of 2013 when Amgen reported that an IV formulation of omecamtiv mecarbil failed a key Phase IIb trial, coming just weeks after Amgen paid $25 million to expand their licensing pact. A follow-up study of an oral version of the drug, though, did prove more positive last year.

Cytokinetics was up by more than 4.6% on the news early this morning.

- check out the release

Related Articles:
Amgen, Cytokinetics say that oral omecamtiv mecarbil looks positive in PhII heart study
Astellas bites off $490M deal to develop muscle drugs with Cytokinetics

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