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3 June, 2020 - 16:46 By Tony Quested

Nanna Therapeutics sale to Astellas Pharma could haul in up to £69.5m

MedTech ‘Merlin’ David Williams has worked his magic again with a second deal worth multimillions inside two years in the Cambridge life science cluster.

Williams has been a key figure in selling Cambridge company Nanna Therapeutics Ltd to Japanese pharmaceutical company Astellas Pharma Inc in a deal valued at £12 million.

In 2018 he engineered the disposal of Discuva Ltd to Oxford-based, Nasdaq-quoted Summit Therapeutics in a £10m cash plus shares deal.

Nanna is focused on addressing age-related diseases with high unmet medical need including mitochondria-related diseases. 

Tokyo-based Astellas, through its subsidiary in the UK, Astellas Pharma Europe Ltd., has bought all of Nanna’s issued share capital through execution of a share purchase agreement.

The £12m consideration was paid on the recent closing of the transaction and Nanna has become a wholly owned subsidiary of Astellas. In addition to the initial payment, Nanna’s shareholders are eligible to receive potential future development milestone payments of up to £57.5m.

Adding Nanna’s proprietary and advanced screening platform with new DNA-encoded chemical libraries (DELs) technology significantly bolsters Astellas’ early stage drug development capabilities. 

Nanna’s unique capabilities enable the creation and rapid testing of more diverse chemical libraries. The approach enables phenotype-based screening which is not feasible with conventional DELs. It can also be applied to various assay systems including cell-based assays utilising patient-derived cells, potentially enabling screens that are tailored to a specific disease biology.

“We believe this acquisition will enable us to create new solutions that address unmet medical needs by combining Nanna’s unique technology platform with our research and development capabilities related to mitochondrial diseases,” said Kenji Yasukawa, President and CEO, Astellas. 

“Nanna’s platform will accelerate Astellas’ drug discovery research in mitochondria-related biology areas such as autophagy and mitophagy, as well as other research areas such as ageing/senescence and immunometabolism.”

Nanna CEO Williams added: “We are focused on developing innovative modulators of mitochondria. This critical organelle, the centrer of energy production and signalling in almost every cell, is implicated in numerous human diseases.

“We are excited to become part of Astellas, which has a strong record of research and development in mitochondrial biology, and we strive to help expand on these achievements.”

In January 2018, Williams sold Cambridge bug-busting technology company Discuva Limited to drug discovery and development company Summit Therapeutics in a £10 million cash-plus-shares deal.

Summit is quoted on Nasdaq, the US technology stockmarket, and on AIM in the UK where the business is anchored in Oxford.

The objective of the takeover was to use Discuva’s IP to develop a novel cohort of antibiotics to fight rare and infectious diseases at a time when bacteria has never proved so tough to eliminate in hospitals and other medical environments.

With activity demonstrated against a number of the bacterial targets, and a research collaboration between Discuva and Roche, the Cambridge company’s platform had already shown promise.

Swiss giant Roche remained obligated to pay specified development, commercialisation and sales milestone payments related to any compound developed under the platform that is or has been optioned by Roche. 

Summit was obligated to pay to Discuva shareholders one-half of the economic benefit of any payments received from Roche.

Separately, certain employees, former employees and former directors of Discuva have been eligible for payments from Discuva based on specified development and clinical milestones related to proprietary product candidates developed under the platform.

Business Weekly reported the Roche deal to fight superbugs at the end of February 2014. Novel solutions were being sought leveraging Discuva’s proprietary SATIN technology platform.

Discuva scooped an upfront payment of $16m, research fees and payments on multiple programmes of up to $175m per product, upon achievement of certain development, commercialisation and sales milestones. 

Based at Cambridge Science Park and led by Williams, Discuva revealed at the point of sale that it would also receive royalties on sales of products originating from the collaboration, which could reach double digit figures if products were based on Discuva’s proprietary early-stage antibiotic programmes.

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