Deal gives Japanese firm access to engineered mouse technology through 2023.

Astellas Pharma has agreed to pay Regeneron Pharmaceuticals $295 million to extend its nonexclusive license to the latter’s VelocImmune® human mAb technology through 2023. The new deal includes a $165 million up-front payment and another $130 million fee due in June 2018, unless Astellas decides to terminate the agreement before that date. The firm will also pay Regeneron mid-single-digit royalties on any antibody products commercialized as a result of its use of the technology. Astellas will use the VelocImmune platform for its in-house therapeutic mAb programs.

The companies’ original six-year licensing agreement for VelocImmune was signed in 2007 and required Astellas to pay Regeneron $20 million per year in license fees. The new deal means Astellas will no longer have to make the license payments that would have been due in 2011 and 2012.

The firm says the development of antibody therapeutics is high on its list of priorities over the coming years. “VelocImmune will continue to be the indispensible technology for our antibody drug development program,” comments Shinichi Tsukamoto, Ph.D., svp of drug discovery research.

Regeneron’s VelocImmune technology is a genetically engineered mouse platform for generating fully human, therapeutic mAbs. However, unlike other human mAb-producing mice that generate antibodies with human constant regions, VelocImmune mouse antibodies retain native constant antibody regions.

The firm claims this means the animals’ immune systems mount a robust humoral immune response that is indistinguishable from that of normal wild-type mouse. The mice effectively demonstrate native protein-protein interactions along with normal B-cell development in bone marrow, normal numbers of mature B cells in relevant tissues, correct serum levels for all immunoglobulin isotypes, and normal responses to antigens. Once the antibodies have been isolated from VelocImmune animals the human variable sequences can be subcloned and spliced to the required human constant region, Regeneron adds.

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