Otsuka Pharmaceuticals Buying Visterra for $430 Million

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Otsuka Pharmaceutical, based in Tokyo, Japan, is acquiring Waltham, Massachusetts-based Visterra for $430 million in cash. The deal is expected to close in the third quarter of this year.

Visterra is a clinical-stage biopharma company with a Hierotope platform it uses to identify unique disease targets and then design and engineer precision antibody-based biological drugs against those targets. Its initial focus is on acute infectious diseases.

Visterra’s first and most-advanced product candidate is VIS410, a monoclonal antibody for hospitalized patients with influenza A, regardless of the viral strain. In a Phase IIa clinical trial, a single dose of VIS410 administered 24 hours after viral inoculation led to a statistically significant drop in the amount of virus detected in the nasal secretions of treated subjects compared to those receiving placebo. They also have received a contract with the U.S. Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) with a forty-month base period with committed funding of $38.6 million to develop VIS410. In November 2017, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted VIS410 Fast Track designation.

The company’s section infectious disease product candidate is VIS513, a monoclonal antibody for Dengue fever. In February, it published preclinical results with the drug in the journal PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases.

Otsuka’s areas of interest are psychiatric and neurological diseases, hematological cancers, and kidney, cardiovascular, and infectious diseases. It indicates its priority is on proprietary drug discovery and development platforms, including antibody development platforms.

“I am highly gratified that Visterra’s exceptional antibody platform technology, promising pipeline and talented researchers will join up with Otsuka,” said Tatsuo Higuchi, president and representative director of Otsuka, in a statement. “By collaborating and reinforcing each other’s culture, human ingenuity and technology, we hope to help fulfill Visterra’s promise as a powerful new drug creation engine and expand Otsuka’s research horizons.”

Once the deal is completed, Visterra will be a wholly owned subsidiary of Otsuka America, a U.S. holding company and a wholly owned subsidiary of Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co. Visterra will continue its operations in Massachusetts and the company hints there will be no changes to “talent and its location.”

In February, Visterra left its headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts’ Kendall Square because it had outgrown them, and moved to a location double the size in Waltham. On October 5, 2017, it announced it had completed a Series C financing totaling $46.7 million, which included a new extension totaling $23.6 million. It raised an initial $23.1 million in June 2016.

The Series C round included existing investors, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, MRL Ventures Fund, Vertex Venture Holdings Ltd., Polaris Partners, Flagship Pioneering, Omega Funds, Cycad Group, and Alexandria Venture Investments. New investors included Serum Institute of India Pvt. Ltd., CTI Life Sciences and Allegheny Financial Group.

Since 2008, the company had raised $122.1 million in venture funding.

In addition to the flu and dengue fever programs, the company has VIS705 for severe Pseudomonas aeruginosa infection, and early-stage programs in oncology, and more infectious diseases, including RSV and severe fungal infections, and chronic pain.

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