Externalizing Astellas

Astellas' new R&D strategy focused on growing preclinical pipeline

With a stocked late-stage pipeline, Astellas Pharma Inc. has decided to restructure its R&D and give more attention to finding early stage programs by looking outside. The Japanese pharma will eliminate much of its bricks-and-mortar R&D and rely on external collaborations to identify novel drug candidates in both core and new therapeutic areas.

Astellas will continue to invest in clinical stage assets through deals like its May 29 partnership with Amgen Inc. to develop and commercialize five of the biotech's programs in Japan (see "Grounded in Japan," A10).

But with 22 programs in Phase III or registration and 15 Phase II programs, Astellas is turning its attention to building a more sustainable pipeline, President and CEO Yoshihiko Hatanaka told BioCentury (see "Astellas Pipeline," online).

On May 14, Astellas said it would form the Astellas Innovation Management (AIM) unit to identify and acquire preclinical assets and technologies. Previously, the bulk of Astellas' preclinical research had been done in-house.

AIM will coordinate what were previously disparate efforts within the pharma's 11 therapeutic area R&D units and the Astellas Venture Management group. In addition to continuing to invest in and partner with biotechs, the new unit will expand the company's reach into academic and research institutions.

"Previously, these efforts were conducted by multiple departments including Astellas Venture

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