Sights set on Asia, Amgen sets up JV development deal with Astellas

Just a few months after Amgen execs lamented a big Asian gap in their global strategy, the Big Biotech company has joined hands with Astellas to set up a new joint venture in Japan. Amgen ($AMGN) is contributing 5 experimental-stage programs to the JV, including their late-stage anti-PCSK9 program for the cholesterol drug AMG-145.

The deal sets up a two-pronged strategy designed to make Amgen a major player in the Japanese market. First the JV will focus on the development of 5 Amgen therapies, then a joint team--operating as Amgen Astellas BioPharma KK in Tokyo and led by Eiichi Takahashi--will spearhead commercialization efforts. The JV is expected to get started in October, start commercialization work in 2016 and Amgen plans to take full control of the venture by 2020.

Amgen will start off with 51% ownership of the JV, the latest in a series of moves aimed at expanding the company's presence in Asia. Just a couple of weeks ago Amgen created a joint venture in China to market its colon cancer drug Vectibix. And at the beginning of the year Amgen outlined plans for a $200 million biologics plant in Singapore as it hustled to catch up with a long lineup of Big Pharma companies that have been putting down deep roots into Asian markets.

The package deal with Astellas also includes late-stage treatments for osteoporosis (romosozumab, or AMG 785) and gastric cancer (rilotumumab, or AMG 102). Two earlier-stage programs for gastric cancer and acute lymphoblastic leukemia and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma as also included.

Robert A. Bradway

"Through this alliance, Amgen will work closely with Astellas to leverage its extensive knowledge of the local market," said Robert A. Bradway, chairman and chief executive officer at Amgen. "With Astellas' strong capabilities and excellent reputation, this alliance will help accelerate development and commercialization of Amgen medicines for patients in Japan. This alliance reflects our long-term commitment to the Japan market and is an important step in our global expansion efforts."  

- here's the press release

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