Skip to content


Astellas acquires UW spinout Universal Cells

Written by Donna O'Neill / February 17, 2018

Astellas Pharma, a Japanese pharmaceutical and biotechnology company, is acquiring UW biotech spinout Universal Cells. Astellas will gain Universal Cells’ proprietary Universal Donor Cell technology to create cell therapy products that do not require Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA) matching, potentially overcoming a huge treatment challenge by reducing the risk of rejection. The technology genetically alters stem cells so that they can be used by anyone, instead of patients needing to use their own stem cells or find donor stem cells with matching biomarkers. Read more here.

Since 2011 when the idea of a startup initially arose and ultimately resulted in the formation of Universal Cells, CoMotion has helped to advance technologies developed by UW Professor David Russell. He created universally accepted donor cells to be used in all patients in an off-the-shelf fashion instead of needing to individually customize such cell therapies for each patient. These efforts included assistance and guidance on an SBIR grant application, a Commercialization Fellowship to gather potential customer feedback, funding to the UW project (prior to startup formation) for a comprehensive market analysis, introductions to CoMotion mentors, the filing and managing of several distinct patent families, and the negotiation of the exclusive licensing agreement with Universal Cells in 2014.

See related stories in Puget Sound Business JournalGeekWire and Xconomy.