Astellas Pharma is buying Belgium-based drug discovery firm Ogeda (formerly Euroscreen) for €500 million (approximately $533 million), to bolster its late-stage pipeline with the latter’s GPCR-targeting drug candidate, fezolinetant (ESN364), which is in development for women’s health indications. Under terms of the deal, announced over the weekend, Ogeda shareholders could receive another €300 million (about $320 million) in fezolinetant-related development and regulatory milestones.

Fezolinetant is a selective NK3-receptor antagonist in Phase II development for treating menopause-related vasomotor symptoms (MR-VS). Positive data from a placebo-controlled Phase IIa study evaluating the drug for treating menopausal hot flashes were reported in January. The trial results showed that Fezolinetant reduced the frequency of moderate-to-severe hot flashes by up to 93% (up to 54% for placebo), and the severity of hot flashes by up to 70% (23% for placebo).

Phase IIa development of fezolinetant is also ongoing for the potential treatment of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and uterine fibroids. Ogeda has additional preclinical and discovery-phase programs targeting inflammatory diseases, including ulcerative colitis and autoimmune diseases.

“The transaction fits with our strategy to deliver innovative drugs in therapeutic areas with high unmet medical needs,” commented Yoshihiko Hatanaka, president and CEO at Astellas. Ogeda has been pioneering the development of NK3 receptor-antagonist fezolinetant for the treatment of MR-VMS. We are committed to advancing science to deliver life-changing medicines to people most in need.”

Jean Combalbert, CEO of Ogeda added, “We welcome the acquisition by Astellas and look forward to developing fezolinetant, first nonhormonal treatment of hot flashes, MR-VMS, inside a leading global pharmaceutical company. With its strong development and commercialization capabilities, resources, and vision, I am convinced that Astellas will be able to turn fezolinetant's promising clinical results into near-term value for patients.”

Euroscreen changed its name to Ogeda in October 2016, on completion of €18 million (approximately $19 million) Series B financing. The company’s Euroscreen Fast business unit offers integrated services for GPCR R&D.

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