Kaketsuken in talks with Astellas to sell its vaccines business

Kaketsuken headquarters, Kumamoto, Japan

Earlier this year, Japanese authorities handed Kaketsuken a 110-day suspension after it found the company was using unauthorized methods to make vaccines and blood products for more than 40 years. Now, Kaketsuken is in talks over selling its vaccines business to compatriot Astellas.

The duo is trying to reach an agreement by the end of the suspension in early May, said unnamed sources quoted by The Japan Times. The sources said they haven't yet agreed on the "scope and price of the business to be transferred" and that they haven't decided the fate of the 1,900 people who work for Kaketsuken.

"Although it is a fact that Astellas is currently discussing with Kaketsuken for the transfer of Kaketsuken's business to Astellas, there is nothing decided at this moment," said Astellas in a statement Friday.

Kaketsuken's vaccines stable includes jabs for hepatitis A, hepatitis B, flu and Japanese encephalitis, as well as a quadrivalent vaccine against diphtheria pertussis, tetanus and polio. Before the scandal, the company recorded ¥47.5 billion ($440 million) in sales for the fiscal year ended March 2015. And though the companies are staying mum on financials, Nikkei reported that selling its vaccine and plasma product business could fetch Kaketsuken tens of billions of yen.

According to Nikkei, Kaketsuken holds about 30% of the flu vaccine market. It signed a pact for Daiichi Sankyo and Takeda to distribute one of its seasonal flu shots. Taking over Kaketsuken's business could restore any lag in flu vaccine supply and allow Astellas to make vaccines in-house. While Astellas is working on allergy vaccines and teamed up with ClearPath Development in October to develop vaccines against hospital-acquired infections, the drugmaker--one of Japan's top three--does not have a dedicated vaccines operation.

- here's the Japan Times story
- and here's more from Nikkei
- read the Astellas statement