Astellas Pharma has acquired Seattle, WA-based Universal Cells, Inc. and its Universal Donor Cell technology enabling the creation of cell therapy products that do not require human leukocyte antigen (HLA) matching which greatly reduces the risk of rejection.
Under the terms of the deal, Astellas will pay up to $102.5M in upfront and milestone payments for 100% ownership of Universal Cells.
Universal Cells’ technology aims to make stem cells that don’t have some of the problems that current cell therapies face, such as the immune rejection of transplanted cells. This is an attractive prospect for Astellas, which has been working to get into the cell therapy business. Universal Cells, which was founded in 2013, edits the genes of stem cells to block their production of specific human leukocyte antigen (HLA) molecules that help signal to the immune system that the cells are foreign and need to be attacked.
Astellas and Universal first started working together in October of last year, when Astellas licensed Universal’s technology for a single indication (the indication wasn’t disclosed).
With this latest deal, Astellas is continuing to build up its cell therapy business. It formed the Astellas Institute for Regenerative Medicine in 2016 after it acquired Ocata Therapeutics of Marlborough, MA, which has been working on stem cell-based therapies for certain forms of blindness.