April 21st, 2015 saw the launch of a major research based collaboration between Tokyo-based Astellas Pharma Inc. and Massachusetts based Potenza Therapeutics. The long term goal of this collaboration seeks to provide novel methods to target the immunologic pathways, checkpoints, co-stimulatory signals and regulatory T-cell behavior as a therapeutic measure towards cancer (immune-oncology). According to the terms of this agreement, Astellas will have an option to take over Potenza if everything goes accordingly during this collaborative period.
The agreement states that Potenza, known for its breakthrough results in preclinical experiments with cancer cells, will be responsible for providing drug discovery solutions and preclinical experimental records and results to Astellas. Astellas will then carry out clinical trials to prove their therapeutic value and later proceed with the commercialization of these approved drugs.
Commenting on the agreement with Potenza, Kenji Yasukawa, Ph.D., senior vice president and chief strategy officer of Astellas, said, “Despite the recent clinical success of checkpoint-blocking monoclonal antibodies targeting PD-1, PD-L1 and CTLA-4, there still remains significant unmet medical need in non-responder patients and unresponsive tumor types. Astellas is focusing on this unmet medical need with novel mechanisms of action and modalities. I am pleased that we are collaborating with Potenza, whose team of scientific founders, management and venture capitalists all have a proven track record in the field of cancer immunotherapy. This collaboration is one piece of Astellas’ cancer immunotherapy strategy, and we will continue to make aggressive investments in this field.”
Additionally Daniel Hicklin, Ph.D., CEO and Co-founder, Potenza, commented, “We are at the beginning of a new era in cancer therapy. First generation immuno-oncology therapeutics have demonstrated meaningful clinical benefit to patients with certain cancers. The new targets and pathways that Potenza is working on offer promise for continued expansion of immunotherapy treatment options. We are excited to partner with Astellas to progress our programs in support of their strategy to become a global leader in oncology and next-generation therapeutics.”