Japanese pharmaceutical company Astellas has signed an agreement to acquire US-based biopharmaceutical company Propella Therapeutics for about $175m.

Astellas will acquire all the outstanding common shares and equity interests in Propella, before 31 March 2024, subject to certain customary closing conditions.

Propella is a biopharmaceutical company that has developed a unique platform that combines medicinal chemistry with lymphatic targeting to create new oncology drugs.

Astellas will obtain Propella’s lead candidate PRL-02 (abiraterone decanoate), a next-generation androgen biosynthesis inhibitor intended for the treatment of prostate cancer.

After intramuscular injection, the long-acting prodrug is expected to achieve high concentrations in target tissues where the active agent abiraterone is continuously released.

Currently, PRL-02 is in the Phase 1 part of a Phase 1/2a study and has the potential to improve efficacy and safety compared to existing treatment options.

Astellas president and CEO Naoki Okamura said: “The acquisition fits with Astellas’ strategy to provide patients with therapeutic options for diseases with high unmet medical needs. Propella has a promising program, PRL-02, targeting prostate cancer.

“We believe that the synergy with Astellas’ global development and commercialization capabilities in the cancer and urology fields will accelerate the development of PRL-02 and deliver new VALUE to patients with prostate cancer.”

Propella president and CEO William Moore said: “We are gratified that Astellas recognizes and values PRL-02’s potential as a best-in-class therapeutic for the treatment of men with prostate cancer.

“We are delighted that Astellas has chosen PRL-02 for further development and we are committed to supporting Astellas’ plans to accelerate PRL-02 development to improve treatment options for prostate cancer patients globally.”

In a separate development, Astellas Pharma has entered a strategic partnership with the University of Tsukuba to advance the digitalisation of the drug discovery research field.

In addition, the partnership aims to develop the life science ecosystem in Tsukuba and Kashiwa-no-ha, and further advance drug discovery research and development.

As part of the collaboration, the University of Tsukuba will open a new office in Astellas’ SakuLab-Tsukuba for the Tsukuba Digital-Bio International Centre.

Under the terms of the agreement, both parties will exchange information on promoting drug discovery research and creating new startups through industry-academia partnerships.

They will support the use of advanced research equipment, drug discovery-related data and research seeds mutually owned by the two parties.

The parties will also implement discussions and seminars to advance and develop collaborative research already conducted by them.

Furthermore, they will promote drug discovery research and new startups through exchange and communication with third-party venture company innovators at SakuLab-Tsukuba.