Astellas acquires Audentes in $3 billion gene-therapy deal

  • Astellas Pharma agreed to buy Audentes Therapeutics for about $3 billion, the latest deal by a pharmaceutical company eager to push into promising gene-therapy technologies.

    Astellas Pharma agreed to buy Audentes Therapeutics for about $3 billion, the latest deal by a pharmaceutical company eager to push into promising gene-therapy technologies. Mark Welsh/Daily Herald file photo

 
By Jeff Sutherland
Bloomberg
Updated 12/3/2019 12:33 PM

Astellas Pharma agreed to buy Audentes Therapeutics for about $3 billion, the latest deal by a pharmaceutical company eager to push into promising gene-therapy technologies.

The Japanese drugmaker, which has its U.S. headquarters in Northbrook, will pay $60 a share for San Francisco-based Audentes, according to a statement from the companies Tuesday, a 110% premium to Audentes's closing price on Monday. The deal is expected to close in the first quarter of 2020.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Audentes shares more than doubled in premarket trading in New York on Tuesday, climbing to $59 at 7:29 a.m.

Astellas shares fell 1.1% in Tokyo on Tuesday. The stock has gained 34% this year, and Monday closed at the highest level in more than a year.

Astellas is targeting gene therapy as a key driver for the company's growth. Gene therapy is a promising new area of medicine that has sparked growing enthusiasm as well as a flurry of deals. Roche Holding earlier this year agreed to buy Spark Therapeutics for $4.8 billion, while Novartis last year made an $8.7 billion deal for AveXis Inc.

Astellas said its deal with Audentes will help it accelerate the development of genetics medicines for rare neuromuscular diseases. A leading drug in Audentes's pipeline is AT132, a treatment for X-Linked Myotubular Myopathy, a life-threatening neuromuscular disease.

"Audentes has developed a robust pipeline of promising product candidates which are complementary to our existing pipeline," Kenji Yasukawa, chief executive officer of Astellas, said in the statement.

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The acquisition is the latest by Japanese drugmakers, which have seen a wave of deals over the past year. Last month, Asahi Kasei Corp. agreed to buy Denmark's Veloxis Pharmaceuticals for about $1.3 billion. Takeda Pharmaceutical this year closed its $62 billion takeover of Shire as the Japanese company seeks to transform itself into a global drugmaker.

The premium Astellas is paying is in line with recent trends, according to Jefferies analysts Stephen Barker and Naoya Miura. While Audentes' treatments such as AT132 look promising, "the real significance of this deal is what it represents in terms of Astellas' commitment to gene therapy," they wrote in a note Tuesday.

The analysts added that beyond the Audentes deal, Astellas has solid growth prospects, driven by existing treatments such as xtandi for prostate cancer and new drugs such as roxadustat for anemia.

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