As PhII data looms, Chugai inks a $205M stem cell deal with Athersys

Cleveland-based Athersys is pocketing a $10 million upfront payment from Chugai in exchange for licensing rights to the biotech's stem cell treatment for repairing stroke damage. The Japanese pharma company, which has close relations with Roche ($RHHBY), also stands to earn up to $45 million in development and regulatory milestones with another $150 million in sales milestones.

In exchange for the deal package and a set of royalties, Chugai lands the Japanese development and commercialization rights to MultiStem, a regenerative therapy that's been developed with off-the-shelf stem cells that can be used for all patients.

Athersys ($ATHX) is set to report some important midstage data on ischemic stroke in just two months, a market catalyst that makes the timing of this deal a bit "odd" for TheStreet's Adam Feuerstein. "Chugai's decision to license MultiStem for Japan will look prescient or foolish depending on the stem cell therapy's performance in an ongoing Phase II study of stroke patients," Feuerstein noted this morning. "The study treats 140 patients one or two days after a stroke with MultiStem or a placebo to determine if the stem-cell therapy can improve stroke recovery."

The small biotech, which has a market cap of $227 million, saw its share price spike 13% this morning. The stock has had to recover since it went into meltdown mode, losing over half of its value in one day last April after MultiStem failed to help patients with ulcerative colitis in another Phase II study.

"Chugai has been a leader in the development and introduction of innovative biologics and has successfully established one of the top sales forces in the prescription drug field in Japan, which we believe represents a key competitive advantage that can help both companies maximize value," says Athersys CEO Dr. Gil Van Bokkelen in a statement. Athersys and Chugai are committed to working together to establish a leadership position in the regenerative medicine cell therapy area in Japan."

- here's the release
- here's the report from TheStreet