Just over a month after announcing a nearly $6 billion acquisition of Iveric Bio, Astellas Pharma inked a $1.9 billion strategic collaboration with Cullgen.

The Japanese drugmaker signed a research and exclusive option agreement with the San Diego-based biotech to discover multiple protein degraders.

As part of the arrangement, Astellas is providing Cullgen with a $35 million upfront payment and Cullgen is also entitled to receive an additional $85 million if Astellas exercises its license option for the lead program.

If Astellas exercises all of its license options and all milestones are hit, Cullgen would be in line for compensation exceeding $1.9 billion.

The focal point of the development process for multiple targeted protein degraders is Cullgen’s uSMITE platform, which features novel E3 ligands. By teaming with Cullgen, Astellas is seeking to grow its footprint in the space and develop clinical candidates.

“Targeted Protein Degradation is one of the Primary Focuses of Astellas,” Adam Pearson, chief strategy officer at Astellas, said in a statement. “We hope this collaboration will bring synergies between the two companies’ cutting-edge research, and will ultimately lead to the expansion of Astellas’ portfolio and development of new therapeutics for patients with significant unmet medical needs.”

Cullgen CEO Ying Luo added that the company is excited to lend its novel E3 ligands to Astellas in order to bring more targeted protein degraders into clinical development.

Astellas has been busy of late as it shores up its drug pipeline and expands its portfolio’s capabilities.

The Iveric Bio deal represented a major play in the blindness treatment sector and  is slated to contribute to the company’s fiscal year 2025 revenue targets. The deal, while subject to regulatory approval and customary closing conditions, is expected to be finalized in Q3 2023.

Meanwhile, Astellas entered into an exclusive license agreement with Kate Therapeutics (KateTx) last week for an investigational gene therapy to treat myotubular myopathy, a rare and often fatal neuromuscular disease. 

Terms were not immediately disclosed, but KateTx will receive an upfront payment to develop and commercialize the preclinical, next-generation gene therapy known as KT430. Astellas will hold the exclusive worldwide license for developing, manufacturing and commercializing the treatment.