Amgen and Astellas have announced a unique long-term collaboration that will see the firms work together on new treatments and geographies.

The alliance between the two companies will focus on the co-development and co-commercialisation in Japan of five Amgen pipeline medicines.

This includes two drugs for gastric cancer – a large unmet need in Asia, particularly in China - and one for two types of blood cancer, as well as a new treatment for osteoporosis and another for hyperlipidaemia, all of which are in various stages of clinical development.

The most advanced is the anti-sclerostin biologic romosozumab, which is currently in Phase III testing. Amgen said in a statement that it expects the first potential commercial launch from this pipeline as early as 2016.

As well as the pipeline deal, the new alliance will also see the establishment of a Tokyo-based joint venture company, through which the companies will work together to enable Amgen to build new facilities in Japan, the world's second largest pharma market after the USA.

The joint venture will operate under the name ‘Amgen Astellas BioPharma KK’ and will be led by Eiichi Takahashi, who will serve as general manager.

This JV will be staffed by seconded employees from Astellas, transferred employees from Amgen and newly hired employees.

It is expected that the joint venture will start operations on 1 October of this year, and will become a wholly owned Amgen affiliate as soon as 2020, with the long-term collaboration continuing after this date.

This comes just three weeks after Amgen, the world's largest biotech firm, announced a new joint venture with Chinese firm Zhejiang Beta Pharma Co to sell its colon cancer drug Vectibix.

Amgen has previously said that it planned to expand its business into major Asian markets in the near future, and in an investor meeting in February called its lack of presence in Japan and China “a noticeable gap”.

This new alliance will go some way to plug this gap, whilst also helping Astellas shore up its desire to develop more oncology treatments, a move it signalled last year. 

“Through this alliance, Amgen will work closely with Astellas to leverage its extensive knowledge of the local market,” said Robert Bradway, chairman and chief executive at Amgen.

“With Astellas’s strong capabilities and excellent reputation, this alliance will help accelerate development and commercialisation of Amgen medicines for patients in Japan. This alliance reflects our long-term commitment to the Japan market and is an important step in our global expansion efforts.”

Yoshihiko Hatanaka, president and chief executive of Astellas, said: “We look forward to entering this alliance with Amgen and believe it will strengthen our pipeline to address unmet medical needs, as well as enable us to obtain growth drivers.

“We will work closely with Amgen to build the joint venture, which will provide innovative medicines to patients in Japan.”