Japan’s Astellas Pharma said late last week that its European Union subsidiary has filed for approval of its candin antifungal compound micafungin, for the treatment of systemic fungal infections, with the European Medicines Agency (EMEA).

The drug was first launched under the trade name Funguard in Japan in December 2002 and as Mycamine in the USA in May the following year, and has been primarily used for the prophylactic treatment of systemic fungal infection. Astellas added that it saw the product as a key factor in the continued expansion of its European drug business, one of it key strategic goals.

Japanese sales of the product in the nine-months ended December 31, 2005came in at 12 billion yen ($101 million), rise of 13%.

Micafungin's novel mode of action specifically interferes with the process of fungal cell wall biosynthesis by inhibiting the enzyme 1,3-beta-D-glucan synthase, which produces a key structural element of the cell wall.

A recent report by market research company Datamonitor suggested that the worldwide market for systemic antifungals will grow from a level of around $3.3 billion in 2003 to almost $6 billion by 2014, driven by an increased incidence and severity of invasive fungal infections, combined with the launch of novel, premium priced antifungal products.