Astellas adds to deal spree with expanded $675M-plus Cytokinetics pact

Astellas has capped a string of new drug development deals by upping the ante on its pact with South San Francisco-based Cytokinetics ($CYTK). After handing over a $40 million upfront fee for their original 2013 deal, Astellas has come back with $75 million more in near-term financing and more than $600 million in milestones on the table.

The deal is designed to get Cytokinetics' CK-2127107, which the biotech calls a fast skeletal troponin activator, into Phase II for spinal muscular atrophy, with other neuromuscular indications on the radar. The mid-stage study is expected to launch next year as investigators at Cytokinetics hunt for new drugs. And they'll share commercialization rights on 2127107, provided they can win an approval.

The near-term money includes $30 million as an upfront, $10 million paid for Astellas' purchase of Cytokinetics' common stock and $15 million in a milestone payment linked to moving CK-2127107 into Phase II clinical development. Cytokinetics also stands to get more than $20 million in reimbursements for research and development expenses over the next two years.

Cytokinetics' specialty is developing new drugs for muscle failure. But it has had poor results in the clinic. The biotech's lead drug for ALS flopped in a key Phase IIb study earlier this year, failing the primary endpoint and getting mixed results on the secondary goals. But it did pick up a positive signal on lung function with tirasemtiv and used that as its basis for going into late-stage development.

Astellas, meanwhile, has been racking up a string of discovery and development deals aimed at filling its pipeline. In just the last few months it tied up with Harvard's Constance Cepko on a new program for a degenerative eye disease. It struck a formal relationship with two more players in Cambridge, MA--inking a deal with Proteostasis Therapeutics that could be worth up to $1.2 billion while getting Dana-Farber investigators to help hunt down new cancer drugs that can inhibit K-Ras.

Yoshihiko Hatanaka

"We are excited to expand our collaboration with Cytokinetics and to advance this drug candidate into Phase II," said Astellas CEO Yoshihiko Hatanaka. "We are encouraged by the result of the completed Phase I studies for CK-2127107 and are hopeful for the future of this new frontier of muscle biology. The expansion of our alliance is a testament to our productive collaboration together and illustrates the broad potential that we envision for this program."

- here's the release