• Martin McGlynn

Japan on the Move

In December 2016, I addressed the 12th Annual World Stem Cell Summit held in Palm Beach, Florida with a presentation entitled Cell Therapy: An Industry Perspective.

In September 2017, I spoke about The Business of Stem Cells at the Stem Cell Institute of the University of Minnesota. In both presentations, I noted how Japanese companies were “on the move,” spurred by the favorable regulatory changes made in Japan in November 2014, and were actively acquiring stem cell assets and companies in the U.S. [See Cell Therapy: An Industry Perspective;, slide 9 and The Business of Stem Cells, slides 30 and 31].

In October 2017, the Seattle-based, privately owned company Universal Cells, announced that it had entered into "an exclusive word-wide license agreement to research, develop and commercialize a novel cell therapy for an undisclosed indication,” with the Japanese company’s Astellas Institute for Regenerative Medicine. You may recall that Astellas had previously acquired Ocata Inc. for $379M in 2015. The consideration reported for this latest deal was $9M in upfront and R&D milestone payments. Universal Cells is developing recombinant, adeno-associated, virus-mediated gene editing technology designed to eliminate the need for immune suppression and donor matching in stem cell therapy.

Of note was the most recent news that a Japanese company continues “on the move” in Europe, with the announcement of Takeda’s intent to acquire the Belgian company TiGenix (TIG BR; Nasdaq TIG) for approximately $626M, an 82% premium over the company’s last trading price prior to the announcement. The proposed acquisition is subject to EMA approval of Cx601, TiGenix’s allogeneic stem cell therapy for Crohn’s disease. Indications are that EMA approval is forthcoming and comes on the heels of Takeda securing ex-U.S rights for Cx601 last year.  Takeda's TiGenix move,comes less than a year after it announced a $100million collaboration with the UK-based GammaDelta Therapeutics. Importantly, the agreement announced May 9, 2017, provides Takeda the exclusive right to purchase GammaDelta.

The proposed acquisition price for TiGenix compares very favorably with Fujifilm’s acquisition of Cellular Dynamics International (CDI) for $307M in 2015 and Astella’s acquisition of Ocata for $379M in 2016, and is likely due to the fact that TiGenix’s technology is much further along in the development process than those of CDI and Ocata.

The Take-away:

  • Japanese companies continue to lead the way in recognizing the potential value of stem cell therapy.

  • They are thinking globally.

  • Valuations continue to rise, albeit modestly.

  • As good, well-controlled clinical data emerges, valuations rise.

Stay tuned… There will be more to report on this topic!

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