Authored by James Sheppard
The Japanese pharmaceutical giant Astellas announced that it was making its first efforts in the promising field of gene therapy. Astellas announced that it has signed a deal with Harvard Medical School investigator Constance Cepko to collaborate on gene therapy for retinitis pigmentosa (RP).
The deal will see Astellas and Professor Cepko investigate whether adeno associated cirus (AAV) vectors can be used to deliver corrective genes to RP patients. In the process they will also map out the mutations behind the eye disease. Astellas has agreed to pay for discovery, development and marketing (providing all goes well). The deal will also see the collaboration stretch into other areas of gene therapy if this project is successful.
Professor Cepko said ‘We are hopeful that some of our candidates will preserve the colour and daylight vision of RP patients, regardless of the disease gene in their family. These treatments may also be effective in people that have other types of ocular disease, such as age-related macular degeneration or glaucoma.’
The collaboration is part of Astellas’s Innovation Management Program which is an initiative designed to reshape the company’s R&D machine. This program has a particular emphasis on partnering. This renewed effort combined with some restructuring which has seen scaled back operations in the US and closure of OSI Pharmaceuticals and Perseid Therpaeutics is hoped to help transform the Japanese pharma giant.