Pandion Therapeutics and Astellas Pharma have signed a license and collaboration agreement to advance the research, development, and commercialisation of locally acting immunomodulators for treating pancreatic autoimmune diseases.

Astellas Pharma is a Japan-based pharma company while Pandion Therapeutics is a US-based provider of modular biologics for autoimmune regulation that offers lasting therapeutic outcomes for patients with autoimmune and inflammatory diseases.

Pandion chief executive officer Rahul Kakkar said: “We are excited to collaborate with Astellas, a partner whose strategic vision for the potential of local immunomodulation in type 1 diabetes, and deep commitment and capabilities in immunology, will greatly accelerate our R&D efforts and build upon our existing collaboration with the JDRF T1D Fund.

“Type 1 diabetes involves the autoimmune destruction of the patient’s own pancreas. Our tissue targeted immune effectors are designed to directly address this aberrant immune response and modify the disease at the site of immune attack.”

Pandion will receive $45m for research and preclinical works

Under the collaboration, modular biologics and functional immunology expertise of Pandion is combined with the advanced therapeutics development and global commercialization capabilities of Astellas for the treatment of autoimmune diseases.

According to the terms of the agreement, Pandion will take charge of the design and discovery of bispecific drug candidates based on its unique modular immune effector and tissue tether platform.

Astellas will carry out preclinical, clinical and commercialization works for certain drug candidates developed under the collaboration.

Pandion is expected to receive up to $45m in cash, for research and preclinical activities, and would also receive royalties on international sales of any commercial products developed under the collaboration.

In addition, Pandion is also expected to receive more than $750m in future development and commercial milestone payments from Astellas, if it develops and commercialises multiple candidates for multiple pancreatic autoimmune diseases.

Astellas corporate executive vice president, chief strategy officer and chief financial officer Naoki Okamura said: “Astellas positions antigen-specific immune modulation (ASIM) as one of our strategic areas of primary focus and we are engaged in the development of novel therapies for autoimmune diseases using new modality/technology.

“Pandion’s tissue-specific immune modulation technology is anticipated to be the potential next-generation modality for ASIM, which can potentially expand its application to various other autoimmune diseases. We will continue to dedicate our efforts in delivering novel treatments for diseases with high unmet medical needs, pursuing cutting-edge science and technological advances.”