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A joint venture in Japan
THOUSAND OAKS, Calif.—In an effort to address some of the serious medical needs faced by patients in Japan, Amgen and Astellas Pharma Inc. have initiated a multi-pronged strategic alliance, combining certain of Amgen's drug candidates with Astellas' established familiarity with Japanese markets as a leading company in the area. Astellas was founded in Japan, with its headquarters in Tokyo, and Amgen has a growing presence in the region with a subsidiary in Tokyo.
The Japanese pharmaceutical industry is the world's second largest and was worth approximately $89 billion in 2011, roughly 10 percent of the global market share, according to a report from GBI Research.
"Through this alliance, Amgen will work closely with Astellas to leverage its extensive knowledge of the local market," Robert A. Bradway, chairman and CEO of Amgen, said in a press release. "With Astellas' strong capabilities and excellent reputation, this alliance will help accelerate development and commercialization of Amgen medicines for patients in Japan. This alliance reflects our long-term commitment to the Japan market and is an important step in our global expansion efforts."
One factor of this alliance is a long-term collaboration between Astellas and Amgen for the co-development and co- commercialization in Japan of five Amgen pipeline medicines. Among the selected drug candidates are AMG 145, an Anti-PCSK-9 mAb being developed for the treatment of hyperlipidemia; AMG 785 (developed in collaboration with UCB), an anti-sclerostin mAb indicated for the treatment of osteoporosis; AMG 103, an anti-CD19 BiTE being developed for the treatment of acute lymphoblastic leukemia and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma; AMG 102, an anti-HGF mAb, and AMG 337, a MET inhibitor, both of which are indicated for gastric cancer. The compounds range from Phase I to Phase III development, and the first commercial launch is expected as early as 2016.
The second element of the partnership consists of the establishment of a Tokyo-based joint venture company. Astellas and Amgen will work together through the joint venture to aid Amgen in rapidly developing on-the-ground capabilities in Japan. The joint venture will be operating under the name Amgen Astellas BioPharma KK, with Eiichi Takahashi serving as general manager and additional management roles to be appointed by the two partners. Amgen Astellas BioPharma KK will be staffed by seconded employees from Astellas, as well as transferred employees from Amgen and newly hired employees. Operations for the joint venture are expected to begin Oct. 1 of this year, and the site will become a wholly owned affiliate of Amgen as early as 2020, with the long-term collaboration continuing.
No financial details for the alliance were disclosed.
"We look forward to entering this alliance with Amgen and believe it will strengthen our pipeline to address unmet medical needs, as well as enable us to obtain growth drivers," Yoshihiko Hatanaka, president and CEO of Astellas, commented in a statement about the arrangement. "We will work closely with Amgen to build the joint venture, which will provide innovative medicines to patients in Japan."
Amgen brought on Goldman, Sachs & Co. as its financial advisor in conjunction with the agreement, while Astellas enlisted Morrison & Foerster LLP as its external legal counsel.
The alliance follows another large partnership announced by Astellas in April. The company joined Daiichi-Sankyo Co. Ltd., Eisai Co. Ltd., Shionogi & Co. Ltd. and Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd., as well as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Japanese government, in forming Global Health Innovative Technology, a public-private partnership dedicated to helping developing countries in the fight against infectious diseases. The initiative was heralded by the participating companies as the first of its kind in Japan.