- AXONIS Therapeutics, Inc. and Tenza win a year of access to life-science incubator in Cambridge, MA and access to Astellas expertise to further their research -

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., Oct. 8, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- Astellas Venture Management LLC (President: Kazunori Maruyama, Ph.D., "AVM"), a wholly-owned venture capital subsidiary of Astellas Pharma Inc., and LabCentral, a launchpad for early-stage life-sciences startups, today announced AXONIS Therapeutics, Inc. and Tenza as the winners of the Astellas-sponsored "Golden Ticket Competition". A Golden Ticket award offers entrepreneurial scientists or emerging biotechnology startups one-year usage of LabCentral's state-of-the-art lab facility in Cambridge, Massachusetts, as well as access to Astellas' research and development (R&D) capabilities and business leaders.

AXONIS and Tenza were chosen for the strength of the innovation in their approach, the therapeutic potential of their research and alignment of their novel technological platforms with Astellas' research and development (R&D) Focus Areas.

"In awarding these Golden Tickets, we are reinforcing Astellas' ongoing commitment to discovering and advancing innovative science for the potential future benefit of patients worldwide," said Maruyama, President, AVM. "We applaud the efforts of AXONIS and Tenza in the advancement of potential treatments for CNS disorders and mucosal disease respectively, and we look forward to helping them realize their potential in these complex and underserved therapeutic areas."

AXONIS Therapeutics, Inc. is advancing research for spinal cord injury and other neurological disorders. AXONIS is currently conducting pre-clinical studies on its novel small molecule technology. The technology is being studied to reactivate spared neural tissue at a spinal cord injury site and help alleviate neuropathic pain and spasticity through upmodulation of KCC2 protein activity.

"We are honored to be awarded an Astellas Golden Ticket," said Joanna Stanicka, Ph.D., CEO of AXONIS. "Combining Astellas' CNS disorder expertise with LabCentral's exciting incubator space will further validate our KCC2-targeted programs that we are investigating to treat not only spinal cord injuries but a host of other neurological conditions in areas of high unmet patient need." 

Tenza is developing orally available therapeutics for mucosal disease by engineering probiotic microbes to produce and deliver drugs directly to gut tissue – with the goal of boosting bioavailability and therapeutic efficacy while reducing systemic side effects.

"Gaining access to Astellas' R&D and clinical expertise is a fantastic opportunity, for which we are most grateful," said Anik Debnath, Ph.D., co-Founder & CEO of Tenza. "In conjunction with the lab space from LabCentral, it will allow us to accelerate the pre-clinical development of our lead programs and pursue additional indications that leverage our platform's capabilities across mucosal disease more broadly."

"We are very pleased by Astellas' support of LabCentral and the Golden Ticket program," said Johannes Fruehauf, LabCentral co-Founder and President. "A Golden Ticket gives these emerging companies a leg up in their development process by giving access not only to our supportive environment, but also some of the brightest pharmaceutical minds in the industry at Astellas. Both are integral to these companies realizing their dream to help patients in their chosen field of research." 

Both AXONIS and Tenza will continue their residence at LabCentral with the next year sponsored by Astellas. Both will be closely supported by the team from AVM and the Astellas Biomedical Innovation Hub organizations in the Boston area to maximize their progress.

About the Golden Ticket Competition
Astellas' sponsorship of the Golden Ticket Competition follows AVM obtaining Gold Sponsorship of LabCentral in October of 2019. Companies awarded an Astellas Golden Ticket will gain one year's priority admission or renewal to LabCentral's state-of-the-art laboratory and access to Astellas' R&D scientists and business leaders. The decision to award any Golden Ticket, and the assessments underlying such decision, are solely within the judgment of Astellas and LabCentral, and are not subject to any objection or appeal. Please access here for further information.

About Astellas Venture Management LLC
AVM is the wholly-owned venture capital organization within Astellas, dedicated to supporting pre-clinical, cutting-edge science that can bring VALUE to patients. For over 20 years, AVM has provided equity investments to private, early-stage companies developing therapeutic programs and platform technologies, helping them to advance their innovations faster. AVM is a strategic investor, making investments in science that will enhance the current Astellas R&D pipeline or that could catalyze new directions in discovery research.

About Astellas
Astellas Pharma, Inc., is a pharmaceutical company conducting business in more than 70 countries around the world. We are promoting the Focus Area Approach that is designed to identify opportunities for the continuous creation of new drugs to address diseases with high unmet medical needs by focusing on Biology and Modality. Furthermore, we are also looking beyond our foundational Rx focus to create Rx+® healthcare solutions combine our expertise and knowledge with cutting-edge technology in different fields of external partners. Through these efforts, Astellas stands on the forefront of healthcare change to turn innovative science into value for patients. For more information, please visit our website at https://www.astellas.com/en

About LabCentral
A private, non-profit institution, LabCentral was founded in 2013 as a launchpad for high-potential life sciences and biotech start-ups. Operating a total of 100,000 square-feet in the heart of Kendall Square in Cambridge, Mass., LabCentral offers fully permitted laboratory and office space for as many as 70 start-ups comprising approximately 500 scientists and entrepreneurs. More information is available at www.labcentral.org and @labcentral.

Cautionary Notes
In this press release, statements made with respect to current plans, estimates, strategies and beliefs and other statements that are not historical facts are forward-looking statements about the future performance of Astellas. These statements are based on management's current assumptions and beliefs in light of the information currently available to it and involve known and unknown risks and uncertainties. A number of factors could cause actual results to differ materially from those discussed in the forward-looking statements. Such factors include, but are not limited to: (i) changes in general economic conditions and in laws and regulations, relating to pharmaceutical markets, (ii) currency exchange rate fluctuations, (iii) delays in new product launches, (iv) the inability of Astellas to market existing and new products effectively, (v) the inability of Astellas to continue to effectively research and develop products accepted by customers in highly competitive markets, and (vi) infringements of Astellas' intellectual property rights by third parties.

Information about pharmaceutical products (including products currently in development) which is included in this press release is not intended to constitute an advertisement or medical advice.

SOURCE Astellas Pharma Inc.

For further information: Media Contact: Jarrod Aldom Corporate Communications, Astellas TEL: +1 508-714-6817 EMAIL: [email protected]; Media Contact: Lindsay Michelle Crockett Associate Manager, Communications & Design, LabCentral TEL: +1 614-441-2575 EMAIL: [email protected]