Daiichi Sankyo inks $200M licensing deal with Ultragenyx to boost gene therapy manufacturing

Office building showing Daiichi Sankyo logo
Daiichi scored a major oncology approval in December with FDA's greenlight for breast cancer med Enhertu. (Daiichi Sankyo)

Daiichi Sankyo is in the midst of a companywide shift to oncology as part of its 2025 business plan, a transition that has scored at least one major approval so far. But Daiichi is also looking to life after 2025, and gene therapy could provide a lucrative roadmap moving forward. 

Daiichi on Tuesday inked a non-exclusive licensing deal worth $200 million for Ultragenyx's HeLa producer cell line platform to help boost its gene therapy product manufacturing, Ultragenyx said in a release. 

The Japanese drugmaker intends to use Ultragenyx's platform, which includes a proprietary system for adeno-associated viral vector manufacturing, to help boost capacity in the event one of its gene therapies reaches approval in the future. 

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"We are currently doing discovery research for gene therapy drugs using AAV vectors as one of our focused modalities toward sustained growth beyond achievement of our 2025 vision,” said Masayuki Yabuta, Daiichi's head of biologics, in a release. “In order to provide these drugs to patients in the future, manufacturing technology must be established early. Ultragenyx's proprietary technology is particularly excellent in terms of stable quality, high production efficiency, and ability to accommodate mass production.”

As part of the agreement, Daiichi will pay $175 million in cash upfront and $75 million in stock. In return, Ultragenyx will hold the exclusive rights to license its platform as well as an option to co-develop and commercialize rare disease products at the investigational stage, the company said.

Daiichi's investment in its gene therapy capacity comes as the drugmaker looks for signs of growth after it reaches its 2025 business plan objectives, which includes an erstwhile investment pivot to oncology. 

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