HealthTech

Astellas teams with YASKAWA for pioneering cell therapy ecosystem.

Focuses on digitizing cell manufacturing processes through robotics technology

Astellas Pharma Inc. (TSE: 4503, President and CEO: Naoki Okamura, “Astellas”) today announced that it signed a memorandum of understanding with YASKAWA Electric Corporation (YASKAWA) to begin discussions on the creation of an innovative cell therapy ecosystem through the integration of pharmaceutical and robotics technologies. This memorandum is legally non-binding and will lead to further specific discussions between the two companies in the future.

The complexity of product manufacturing is a significant challenge to commercializing cell therapy. Substantial investments are required to develop complex manufacturing processes, transfer technology among manufacturers, and establish large-scale manufacturing facilities for commercialization. This makes it difficult for startups and academia to commercialize cell therapy independently.

Since the end of 2017, Astellas has been advancing drug discovery and manufacturing technology research in cell therapy through the introduction of the humanoid robot “Maholo”, developed by the Robotic Biology Institute, a subsidiary of YASKAWA.

Under the terms of the memorandum, the companies will begin discussions to potentially develop a platform that may seamlessly link early-stage research to commercialization, utilizing the state-of-the-art Maholo robot to manufacture high-quality products and shorten the R&D period of cell therapy.

Furthermore, the companies would consider the possibility of potentially offering the use of the platform to startups and academia, aiming to develop an advanced cell therapy ecosystem that may enable the discovery and nurturing of innovation while potentially reducing investment in investigational drug manufacturing based on the Pharmaceutical and Medical Device Act*1.

Astellas would provide cell manufacturing technology, clinical development and regulatory insights related to cell therapy. YASKAWA would provide and develop state-of-the-art robotics and factory automation technologies.

Astellas is committed to achieving our VISION of being “on the forefront of healthcare change, turning innovative science into VALUE for patients”. With this potential partnership, Astellas would further contribute to startups and academia working on cell therapy to deliver cutting-edge cell therapy products with the potential to be innovative treatments to patients.

The impact of this memorandum on Astellas’ financial results for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2025, is expected to be minor.

YASKAWA announces “Yaskawa Partners with Astellas Pharma on Building a Cell Therapy Platform Combining Robotics and Pharmaceutical Technologies” on the same day.

*1 Pharmaceutical and Medical Device Act: Act on Securing Quality, Efficacy and Safety of Products Including Pharmaceuticals and Medical Devices

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