About us

The research engine for our Primary Focus in Immuno-Oncology is based at Tsukuba Research Center in Japan. This engine plays a central role in advancing the creation of innovative cancer therapeutics, by bringing together scientists with diverse backgrounds including pharmacology, chemistry, antibody engineering, pharmacokinetics, and safety under a bio-venture-like agile organizational structure. In addition, we collaborate with Astellas’ various research divisions and have established a robust network of external partners to co-create VALUE for patients diagnosed with various forms of cancer.

As part of this initiative, we established a Tumor MicroEnvironment imaging and interactive research for innovation (TME iLab) open innovation hub in Kashiwa-no-ha, a center of life science in Japan, to promote defining characteristics of the tumor microenvironment in clinical samples, selecting biomarkers for effective therapies from clinical data, and identifying candidate target molecules that will become new therapeutic targets. 

Please click here to learn more about Astellas’ Primary Focus in Immuno-Oncology.

Our Approach

We focus on the development of multifunctional modality platforms that enable simultaneous stimulation of multiple steps in the cancer immune cycle (Fig. 1). We are actively forming strategic alliances with world-leading research institutes and companies in the immuno-oncology field and have successfully built a robust and competitive pipeline (Fig. 2). We are also strengthening collaboration within Astellas at  Xyphos in San Francisco, CA (a cancer cell therapy leader) and our cancer translational science team in Cambridge, MA to jointly address next generation immuno-oncology therapeutics based on our deep understanding of the tumor microenvironment.

Fig.1 Cancer Immunity Cycle and Our Programs

Cancer immunity cycle and Our programs

Source for Cancer Immunity Cycle: Chen DS & Mellman I. Immunity. 2013;39(1):1-10 and Demalia O. et al. Nature. 2019;574(7776):45-56.

Fig.2 Immuno-Oncology Pipeline

Immuno-Oncology Pipeline

IL: Interleukin,  DGK: Diacylglycerol kinase



Ryuichi Moriya, Ph.D.

Division Head

Ryuichi Moriya, Ph.D.

Dr. Moriya joined Astellas in 2009 and has engaged in Antibody Drug Discovery at Tsukuba Research Center and Antibody Drug Conjugate research at Agensys, a subsidiary in the United States. In 2018, he was appointed Head of the Targeted Medicine Laboratory and has experience as a Primary Focus Modality Lead. He has been in his present position since October 2023.

Akihiro Ohashi, Ph.D.

Principal Investigator

Akihiro Ohashi, Ph.D.
Division Head, Exploratory Oncology Research & Clinical Trial Center, National Cancer Center
Affiliate Associate Professor, Graduate School of Frontier Science, The University of Tokyo
Affiliate Associate Professor, Research Institute for Biomedical Sciences, Tokyo University of Science

Dr. Ohashi is an expert in tumor biology and drug discovery. Starting his career as a cancer researcher in post-doc, he investigated molecular functions of tumor suppressor genes in familial breast and ovarian cancers at Mayo Clinic. He then joined Takeda Pharmaceutical Company Ltd. and worked there for 12 years to lead multiple drug discovery projects. In September 2018, he joined National Cancer Center Japan as a Division Head in Exploratory Oncology Research & Clinical Trial Center (NCC EPOC). He currently drives both basic and translational projects, aiming development of novel cancer therapeutic drugs, in collaborations with world-wide academia, pharmaceuticals, and biotech companies. In February, 2023, he was also appointed as a Principal Investigator of Immuno-Oncology at Astellas. 



IL-7 coupled with IL-12 increases intratumoral T cell clonality, leading to complete regression of non-immunogenic tumors.
Tasaki M, Yamashita M, Arai Y, Nakamura T, Nakao S.
Cancer Immunol Immunother. 2021 Dec;70(12):3557-3571. doi: 10.1007/s00262-021-02947-y. 

Characterization of ASP8374, a fully-human, antagonistic anti-TIGIT monoclonal antibody. 
Shirasuna K, Koelsch G, Seidel-Dugan C, Salmeron A, Steiner P, Winston WM, Brodkin HR, Nirschl CJ, Abbott S, Kinugasa F, Sugahara S, Ohori M, Takeuchi M, Hicklin DJ, Yoshida T. 
Cancer Treat Res Commun. 2021;28:100433. doi: 10.1016/j.ctarc.2021.100433.

Oncolytic vaccinia virus induces a novel phenotype of CD8+ effector T cells characterized by high ICOS expression.
Yamashita M, Tasaki M, Murakami R, Arai Y, Nakamura T, Nakao S.
Mol Ther Oncolytics. 2021 Feb 4;20:422-432. doi: 10.1016/j.omto.2021.01.016.

Intratumoral expression of IL-7 and IL-12 using an oncolytic virus increases systemic sensitivity to immune checkpoint blockade 
Nakao S, Arai Y, Tasaki M, Yamashita M, Murakami R, Kawase T, Amino N, Nakatake M, Kurosaki H, Mori M, Takeuchi M, Nakamura T.
Sci Transl Med. 2020 Jan 15;12(526):eaax7992. doi: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aax7992.

Press Releases

Astellas Establishes Open Innovation Hub for Tumor Microenvironment Research with Cutting-Edge Spatial Biology, in Mitsui Fudosan’s “MITSUI LINK-Lab KASHIWA-NO-HA 1”

Astellas and Sutro Biopharma Announce Worldwide Strategic Collaboration to Advance Novel Immunostimulatory Antibody-Drug Conjugates (iADCs)

CytomX Therapeutics and Astellas Announce Strategic Collaboration to Develop Probody® T-Cell Engaging Bispecific Therapies for Treatment of Cancer

KaliVir Immunotherapeutics and Astellas Enter Worldwide Exclusive Licensing Agreement for Development and Commercialization of VET2-L2 Novel Oncolytic Virus

Career & Contact