Otsuka's eye disease strategy takes Shape with $1.5B biobucks deal

Barely a week after Otsuka Pharmaceutical made moves into the psychedelics space, the Japanese drugmaker has clinched a collaboration with Shape Therapeutics to develop intravitreally delivered adeno-associated viruses (AAVs) for ocular diseases.

Under the agreement, RNA-focused Shape will receive an undisclosed upfront payment to apply its AAVid capsid discovery platform and transgene engineering technology to help Otsuka develop new treatment options for serious eye diseases. Should any resulting drugs get off the ground, Shape could also be in line for combined milestone payments of over $1.5 billion as well as royalties.

For Otuska, the collaboration marks the latest attempt to strengthen its portfolio in a diverse array of diseases. It follows the Tokyo-based company’s acquisition of psychedelic company Mindset last week for $59 million, including the Canadian biotech’s lead psilocybin-like conjugate.

Otsuka established its ophthalmology division back in 1992 and manufactures a few combination treatments for use in Asia for glaucoma and ocular hypertension.

“Our recent research activities have led to identification of target molecules and antibodies for specific ocular diseases of interest with high unmet medical needs,” Toshiki Sudo, Ph.D., head of Otsuka’s Osaka Research Center for Drug Discovery, said in a postmarket release on the Shape deal Sept. 7. “Our collaboration with ShapeTX aims to enable delivery of vectorized antibody drugs in combination with AAV, in order to target specific disease cell types in the eye and provide a once-in-a-lifetime and curative administration with stable lifetime expression.”

Thanks to a collaboration with Roche spanning Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and rare diseases, Shape has been making waves in recent years, including achieving a coveted spot on last year’s Fierce 15. Instead of using CRISPR and directly editing DNA, the Seattle-based company is using RNA to develop treatments that can fix faulty proteins that arise from disease-causing gene mutations without making permanent adjustments to the DNA.