Shares in stem cell biotech Cynata Therapeutics (ASX:CYP) have gained 27 per cent this morning to $1.80 after it finally executed a licensing agreement with Japanese tech giant Fujifilm.

Cynata will receive $US3m via an upfront fee as part of the deal and, should all go well, could receive up to $US43m in future milestone payments.

Fujifilm now has an exclusive licence to develop and commercialise Cynata’s lead product, CYP-001, for the prevention and treatment of graft-versus-host disease. The company will bear all development costs going forward.

Cynata will receive a 10 per cent royalty on all potential future product sales, although some of that will go to the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, a body featuring scientists who originally discovered the drug and its associated technology.

“Fujifilm’s decision is a clear validation of our Cymerus platform technology solution for manufacturing mesenchymal stem cells at scale,” Cynata CEO Dr Ross Macdonald said.

“We now look forward to Fujifilm taking this product through further clinical development activities and subsequently to market.”

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The background

Cynata owns technology called Cymerus. It utilises stem cells from a one-time donor that Cynata hopes will treat a range of diseases, from cardiovascular disease to osteoarthritis.

Its lead candidate is CYP-001 for the treatment of graft-versus-host disease, an insidious condition with a high mortality rate. It has passed phase I trials.

In early 2017, Fujifilm bought into Cynata, and later increased its share to 10 per cent. It has an option for an exclusive, worldwide licence to develop, and hopefully one day market, CYP-001.

Fujifilm was originally supposed to make its decision on whether to acquire the rights to the drug in March; but it delayed that decision by six months, which sent Cynata’s stock crashing amid fears Fujifilm had gone cold.

But Dr Macdonald has always maintained hope, and in the meantime, Cynata has continued to develop its drugs for other treatments, and has even been subject to a takeover offer from Japanese pharma company Sumitomo.  It has granted Sumitomo due diligence.


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