Astellas Pharma plans to acquire Ganymed Pharmaceuticals for up to €1.282 billion ($1.4 billion), in a deal intended to expand the buyer’s oncology portfolio, the companies said today.

Founded in 2001 as a spinoff from the Universities of Mainz and Zurich, privately held Ganymed focuses on developing a new class of cancer drugs called ideal monoclonal antibodies (IMABs) for the treatment of solid cancers.

Ganymed’s pipeline is led by IMAB362, a gastroesophageal cancer candidate designed to target the tight junction protein Claudin-18.2 (CLDN18.2), which is overexpressed in up to 80% of gastrointestinal adenocarcinomas (primary and metastasized) and 60% of pancreatic tumors, in addition to other solid cancers.

Because its expression is restricted to differentiated stomach cells only and is absent from all other tested healthy tissues, IMAB362 has little or no effect on healthy cells, thus reducing the risk of toxicity, according to Ganymed.

In June at the ASCO 2016 Annual Meeting, Ganymed trumpeted positive results from the Phase IIb FAST trial that showed IMAB362 added to standard chemotherapy extended the median progression-free survival (7.9 months vs. 4.8 months) and the median overall survival (13.2 months vs. 8.4 months) in gastroesophageal cancer patients positive for Claudin18.2.

The study included 161 patients with advanced or recurrent gastric or gastroesophageal junction cancer with a specific minimal level of Claudin18.2. In a subgroup of patients with the highest levels of Claudin18.2, IMAB362 resulted in near-doubling of overall survival (16.7 months vs. 9.0 months).

Ganymed is based in Mainz, Germany, and employs approximately 80 people.

“We aim to deliver a potential new therapeutic option to cancer patients who currently have limited treatment options available to them,” Astellas President and CEO Yoshihiko Hatanaka said in a statement. “The acquisition of Ganymed will enable Astellas to further expand our oncology presence by adding a late-stage antibody asset with the potential to establish a new pillar following Xtandi™ [enzalutamide].”

Astellas has jointly developed and commercialized Xtandi with Medivation and has responsibilities for manufacturing, all additional regulatory filings globally, and commercialization outside the U.S.

Astellas agreed to pay €422 million ($461 million) for all of the equity in Ganymed and up to €860 million ($939 million) in payments to shareholders tied to achieving milestones in the development of IMAB362.

Ganymed would become a wholly owned subsidiary of Astellas following the acquisition, which is subject to customary regulatory approvals, and set to close “in the next several weeks,” the companies said.

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