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Japanese drug maker signs $430m deal to buy Waltham-based Visterra

A scientist at work at a Visterra lab.Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff/File 2013

The Japanese drug maker Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co. has signed a deal to buy Waltham-based Visterra Inc. for $430 million, the latest move by a foreign pharmaceutical company to establish a presence in the white-hot Massachusetts biotech cluster.

The boards of both companies said Wednesday that they had approved the all-cash transaction, which is expected to close in the third quarter of this year.

Otsuka Pharmaceutical is a subsidiary of Otsuka Holdings Co., of Tokyo. The Otsuka group of companies employ 46,000 people worldwide. The drug subsidiary focuses on finding treatments for psychiatric and neurological disorders; blood cancers; and kidney, cardiovascular, and infectious diseases.


Visterra is a privately held 11-year-old biotech working on antibody-based therapies for kidney diseases and other hard-to-treat disorders. It has developed a drug-discovery tool, Hierotope, that enables scientists to engineer antibodies to target a particular site on a virus or bacteria.

Visterra is focusing, among other things, on diseases like the flu, which every year results in the hospitalization of about 400,000 Americans and leads to about 50,000 deaths, particularly of people with compromised immune systems.

“Joining forces with Otsuka will provide Visterra the resources, support and commitment to accelerate development of our pipeline and fully realize the potential of our technology platform,” said Dr. Brian Pereira, chief executive of Visterra.

Tatsuo Higuchi, president of Otsuka Pharmaceutical, said the deal will “help fulfill Visterra’s promise as a powerful new drug creation engine and expand Otsuka’s research horizons.”

In April, Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. of Japan reached a $62 billion deal to buy Shire PLC, an Irish drug maker with most of its employees in Lexington and Cambridge. Shire’s products include Adderall for ADHD and medicines for rare diseases.

Jonathan Saltzman
can be reached at jsaltzman@globe.com