November 10, 2015

Japanese company to acquire Ocata Therapeutics

Ocata Therapeutics of Marlborough, which researches treatments for eye diseases, has agreed to be sold to Astellas Pharma Inc. of Japan for $379 million, the two companies announced late Monday.

Astellas subsidiary Laurel Acquisition Inc. will make the purchase through an $8.50-per-share tender offer of all Ocata stock. Laurel will then be merged with Ocata. The 20-day transaction period for the tender offer is expected to begin no later than Nov. 25, the statement said.

Ocata and Tokyo-based Astellas said both their boards of directors had approved the agreement.

"The acquisition of Ocata represents the coming together of two companies with significant accomplishments and a shared commitment to [developing] innovative therapies that address the unmet medical needs of patients suffering from severe ophthalmic diseases," the statement said. It noted that the deal also enables Astellas to establish a presence in ophthalmology and a leading position in cell therapy.

Monday's statement did not say how the acquisition would impact Ocala's employees or operations. A spokesman yesterday morning said the company has nothing to add beyond what is in the news release.

Ocata, a pioneer in the study of stem cells for medical purposes, changed its name from Advanced Cell Technology about a year ago. The small and sometimes struggling biotech, which employs about 40, was founded in 1994. It has for some time been focusing on developing a treatment for dry age-related macular degeneration (dry AMD). A current study involves transplantation of its fully differentiated stem-cell line RPE into the retina.

Paul Wotton, president and CEO of Ocata, said in the statement: "I am impressed by the vision and commitment of Astellas and believe that with their global resources behind our regenerative platform, patients suffering from debilitating diseases like AMD and SMD [Stargardt's macular dystrophy] will soon benefit from having access to regenerative medicine."

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