Astellas and MBC BioLabs Announce Winners of Golden Ticket Competition to Support Biotech Start-ups Accelerate Early Drug Discovery and Innovation

Sponsorship provides a year of access to MBC BioLabs’ life-science incubators and in-house Astellas expertise

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SAN FRANCISCO, Dec. 14, 2020 – Astellas Venture Management (President: Kazunori Maruyama, Ph.D, “AVM”), a wholly-owned venture capital subsidiary of Astellas Pharma Inc. and Mission Bay Capital BioLabs (“MBC BioLabs”), a life-science incubator, today announced Keyhole Therapeutics, Inc. and Jupiter Therapeutics, Inc. as the winners of their “Golden Ticket Competition“. Building on the success of the inaugural competition held in 2019, the award supports entrepreneurial scientists and emerging biotechnology start-ups to accelerate early drug discovery and innovation for the potential future benefit of patients worldwide.

Entries were received across a broad range of disease areas and exciting innovative technologies from which the winning companies were identified. Keyhole Therapeutics and Jupiter Therapeutics were chosen for the potential of their innovations to deliver therapeutic advances for unmet medical needs and their potential synergy with Astellas’ Focus Area Approach. Both winners gain one-year usage of MBC BioLabs’ state-of-the-art laboratory facility as well as access to Astellas’ research and development capabilities and business mentors.

“Astellas’ ongoing commitment to identify and support early-stage innovation from biotech entrepreneurs is key to realizing our VISION of turning innovative science into VALUE for patients,” said Maruyama, President, AVM. “We are proud to award Golden Tickets to Keyhole Therapeutics and Jupiter Therapeutics, supporting their pioneering research and discovery journey as they advance innovative science applicable in many disease areas where serious and significant unmet needs exist for patients.”

Keyhole Therapeutics is a discovery stage drug company translating groundbreaking work by its University of California, San Francisco, founders in the area of exosome-mediated immune suppression into first-in-class immunotherapies for cancer and autoimmune diseases. Their first program, a small molecule inhibitor of exosome release being investigated for promotion of immune-driven tumor destruction in cancer patients resistant to current immune checkpoint inhibitors, is at the hit-to-lead stage. Future programs will include additional inhibitors of exosome release, and novel exosome-related therapeutic opportunities for cellular cancer vaccines and for targeted suppression of autoreactive T cells.

“We are thrilled to be awarded a Golden Ticket. This is an excellent opportunity for Keyhole Therapeutics to accelerate our exosome-focused discovery research,” said John Hunter, Chief Executive and Scientific Officer at Keyhole Therapeutics. “With the support of Astellas and access to MBC BioLabs’ incubator, we will be able to advance the pre-clinical development of our small molecule exosome inhibitor, which has first-in-class potential for cancer patients who don’t respond to currently available checkpoint inhibitors.”

Jupiter Therapeutics is a platform biotechnology company focused on creating a new class of cell-membrane based therapeutics inspired by nature’s intercellular messenger systems. They use cell engineering to design and customize vesicles for immuno-oncology, gene therapy and targeted drug delivery. Jupiter’s team consists of multiple Nobel laureates, Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigators and experienced drug developers whose first approach in immuno-oncology addresses major limitations of chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cells and bispecific antibodies.

“Receiving the Golden Ticket is an important step for us in achieving our goal of developing a new therapeutic platform approach with the potential to deliver advances in immuno-oncology, gene therapies and targeted drug delivery,” said Ashwin Ram, Founder and CEO at Jupiter Therapeutics. “Astellas’ capabilities and expertise will be invaluable in taking our research to the next level.”

“We aim to provide the right mix of tools, capabilities and leadership to enable innovation to flourish,” said Douglas Crawford, MBC BioLabs General Manager. “By combining Astellas’ expertise with our start-up accelerator, we are excited to provide an environment for the winning companies to grow and deliver to their future potential.”

The winners will be able to take up residence at MBC BioLabs’ San Francisco Bay Area laboratories early next year and 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 2020 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.

For the 2020 Golden Ticket Competition, Astellas offered up to two Golden Tickets for pioneering scientists with innovative research that complements Astellas’ interest in all areas of innovation and in particular Astellas’ Focus Area Approach.

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 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 MBC BioLabs and are not subject to any objection or appeal.

The 2019 Astellas Golden Ticket winners were AmbAgon Therapeutics and Gordian Biotechnology, 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’ R&D Focus Areas.

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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. 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 that 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

About MBC BioLabs
MBC BioLabs is dedicated to helping life-science start-ups 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 three sites: one in the Dogpatch neighborhood in San Francisco and two new campuses 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 BioCapital. 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 and grow 195 companies. These companies have brought 53 programs to the clinic, produced 13 approved diagnostics, and raised over $4.75 billion!

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.

Contacts for inquiries or additional information:

Astellas Pharma Inc.
Media Contact
Valerie Moens
Medical & Development Strategic Planning and Communications
TEL: +1 312-772-0050

MBC BioLabs
Media Contacts Flavia Nachbar
Public & Alliance Relations Manager, MBC BioLabs
TEL: +1 415-347-8287