Two exciting biotechs win a year of access to life-science incubator and in-house Astellas expertise to advance their early drug discovery research

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MENLO PARK, Calif., Dec. 5, 2019 /PRNewswire/ — Astellas Venture Management (President: Shunichiro Matsumoto, Ph.D., MBA, “AVM”), a wholly-owned venture capital subsidiary of Astellas Pharma Inc. (TSE: 4503, President and CEO: Kenji Yasukawa, Ph.D., “Astellas”), and Mission Bay Capital BioLabs (“MBC BioLabs”), a life-science incubator, today announced AmbAgon Therapeutics and Gordian Biotechnology as the winners of the Astellas-sponsored “Golden Ticket Competition.” The award supports advancing early-stage companies’ pre-clinical scientific discoveries, reflecting Astellas’ ongoing commitment to discovering and advancing innovative science for the potential future benefit of patients worldwide.

AmbAgon Therapeutics and Gordian Biotechnology 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. Both gain one-year usage of MBC BioLabs’ state-of-the-art laboratory facility as well as access to Astellas’ R&D expertise and senior leaders.

“Astellas is proud to support entrepreneurial innovators in advancing early drug discovery and research to help us realize our vision of turning innovative science into value for patients,” said Matsumoto. “AmbAgon Therapeutics and Gordian Biotechnology are pioneering truly exciting research in oncology and diseases of aging. We applaud their scientific rigor and innovative approaches, and we look forward to supporting their progress in these complex and underserved disease areas.”

AmbAgon Therapeutics develops first-in-class small-molecule therapeutics for cancer by augmenting the tumor-suppressing functions of the 14-3-3 protein, a truly novel approach for inhibiting oncogenic transcription factors for cancers with defined drivers, such as breast cancer. AmbAgon combines unique expertise in 14-3-3 drug discovery towards previously undruggable targets with a broad platform technology and industry experience to discover the next generation of anticancer therapies.

“We are honored to be awarded an Astellas Golden Ticket,” said Michelle Arkin, co-Founder, AmbAgon Therapeutics. “Combining Astellas’ oncology expertise with MBC BioLabs’ exciting incubator space will springboard our development of innovative small-molecule cancer therapies.”

Gordian Biotechnology is pioneering a novel discovery platform to radically improve drug development for complex and poorly understood diseases of aging. Their discovery platform enables in vivo therapeutic discovery, as the first step in pre-clinical development, rather than the last. Their platform produces in vivo efficacy data in months on thousands of genetic therapies simultaneously. Gordian will use their scalable, high-throughput in vivo screening technology to discover and develop novel targets and therapeutics that can meet large unmet needs in complex and age-related disease.

“Gaining access to Astellas’ R&D and clinical expertise is a fantastic opportunity,” said Francisco LePort, Chief Executive Officer, Gordian Biotechnology. “It will allow us to fast-track the pre-clinical development of our age-related disease research and further validate our high-throughput in vivo screening technology.”

“Our mission is to give life-science entrepreneurs the space to soar,” said Douglas Crawford, MBC BioLabs General Manager. “We are excited to partner with Astellas in providing the right environment, capabilities and expertise to help the next generation of start-ups turn their brilliant ideas into successful companies.”

AmbAgon Therapeutics will take up residence at MBC BioLabs’ San Francisco Bay Area laboratories in the coming months. Gordian Biotechnology will continue their residence at MBC BioLabs with the next year sponsored by Astellas. Both will be closely supported by the team from AVM and Astellas’ Drug Discovery Research organization to maximize their progress.

About the Golden Ticket Competition
Astellas’ sponsorship of the Golden Ticket Competition follows AVM becoming a limited Partner of the venture capital firm Mission Bay Capital in May 2019 and obtaining Gold Sponsorship of MBC BioLabs.

Companies awarded an Astellas Golden Ticket will gain one year’s priority admission or renewal to MBC BioLabs’ state-of-the-art laboratory and access to Astellas’ R&D expertise and senior leaders. The decision to award any Golden Ticket, and the assessments underlying such decision, are solely within the judgment of Astellas and MBC BioLabs, and are not subject to any objection or appeal. For further information, please go to:

About Astellas Venture Management
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., based in Tokyo, Japan, is a company dedicated to improving the health of people around the world through the provision of innovative and reliable pharmaceutical products. For more information, please visit our website at:

About MBC BioLabs
MBC BioLabs is dedicated to helping life-science startups succeed. By renting space as small as a single bench and providing these entrepreneurial scientists with access to millions of dollars of equipment, we allow companies to be fast, focused, and frugal. We now have two sites: one in the Dogpatch neighborhood in San Francisco and a new campus in San Carlos. Each site has a complete molecular biology core facility that allows companies to do experiments on day one, not year one. We have partnerships with leading pharmaceutical and life-science companies as well as a built-in venture capital firm, Mission Bay Capital. These partnerships provide our entrepreneurs with valuable insights about where to focus their efforts and accelerates the innovation pipeline. Our labs have truly enabled awesome: since our opening in 2013 we have helped launch more than 135 companies, and these companies have gone on to raise over $3.5 billion!