2021-12-02| Asia-Pacific

Astellas Taps Dyno in $1.6+ Billion Deal to Develop AAV Gene Therapies

by Joy Lin
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Astellas, wanting to strengthen the delivery aspect of its gene therapies, has partnered with Dyno Therapeutics to access its AI-driven AAV design platform. For Dyno, the Astellas collaboration is just the latest in a series of multi-billion dollar deals. 

Under the deal, Dyno will look for suitable AAV capsids, the protein shells of the viral vector that targets cells. Meanwhile, Astellas will handle preclinical, clinical and commercial activities. The cooperation currently covers AAVs that target cardiac and skeletal muscles. 

Dyno will receive an upfront payment of $18 million, and could receive up to $235 million per product developed, for a total of $1.6 billion, in milestones and royalties from Astellas. 

“Our principal focus is on developing adeno-associated virus delivered therapies for the treatment of well-defined serious diseases,” said Astellas CFO Naoki Okamura. “We are dedicated to delivering novel approaches and utilizing new technologies that can deliver transformational value for patients.”

Related article: Roche Bets on Shape’s RNA Editing Tech in $3B Gene Therapy Collab

Overcoming the Limitations of Traditional AAVs


Existing gene therapies use naturally occurring AAV capsids to deliver their gene payloads. These AAVs face limitations, including delivery efficacy and manufacturing challenges. As they occur in nature, the body may have existing immunity against the AAV. Furthermore, due to their small size, these AAVs cannot deliver large genes. 

Dyno believes that its CapsidMap platform, which uses AI and machine learning, could generate and select capsid sequences that encode for more superior capsids. According to the company, such capsids would be able to target a wider variety of tissues while evading the immune response. Also, they can be designed to encapsulate larger genes or be easier to mass-produce. 

Dyno’s technology has drawn the attention of several notable names in the pharma industry. Last October, Dyno inked a pact worth over $1.8 billion with Roche to develop AAVs for central nervous system disorders and liver diseases. Other companies that have approached Dyno include Novartis and Sarepta Therapeutics. 

Related article: Ensoma Enters Gene-Editing Market with $70 Million Funding and Takeda Partnership

In the Shadow of a Clinical Setback 


Astellas’ collaboration with Dyno comes as the Japanese pharma struggles with setbacks to one of its gene therapies inherited from its $3 billion acquisition of Audentes. 

The gene therapy, AT132, was designed to treat X-linked myotubular myopathy, a rare neuromuscular disease. However, a clinical trial investigating the treatment was paused by Astellas after recording a fourth patient death. The company has not disclosed the cause for the deaths. 

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