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Japanese drug maker to buy Marlborough biotech

Biotech, sold for $379m, seeks to treat eye disease

Japanese drug maker Astellas Pharma Inc. said Tuesday it has agreed to pay $379 million in cash to buy Marlborough’s Ocata Therapeutics Inc., a biotech focused on regenerative medicines to treat macular degeneration.

Under the deal, unveiled in Japan, the buyer will use a subsidiary called Laurel Acquisition Inc. to acquire Ocata through an $8.50-a-share tender offer. When it’s completed, Laurel will be merged into Ocata.

The move is the latest in a string of biopharmaceutical acquisitions that are giving foreign drug makers a foothold in the Massachusetts life sciences cluster. Two other Japanese players, Takeda Pharmaceuticals and Sumitomo Dainippon Pharma Group have previously bought Bay State biotechs.

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Astellas, which works in the fields of cancer and urology, will pick up several drug candidates that seek to use cell therapy — injecting healthy cellular material into patients to correct defects — to treat different forms of macular degeneration, an eye disease that destroys the central part of the retina.

Ocata, founded in 1994 as Advanced Cell Technology Inc., changed its name in March. It has about 40 employees.


Robert Weisman can be reached at robert.weisman@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeRobW.