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Astellas Pharma Inc. (ALPMY) recently announced its intention to terminate its collaboration with Ambit Biosciences Corp. for the development and commercialization of FMS-like tyrosine kinase-3 (FLT3) inhibitors, including quizartinib. Astellas and Ambit will terminate the collaboration on Sep 3, 2013. As a result of the termination, Ambit will regain all rights to quizartinib and will continue with the phase III clinical trial program for the candidate.

Quizartinib is currently in a phase IIb clinical study and is being evaluated as monotherapy treatment for adults suffering from relapsed or refractory acute myeloid leukemia (AML). The candidate is also in two phase I studies in a combination treatment regimen with chemotherapy and as a maintenance therapy following transplant.

Astellas and Ambit’s agreement dates back to Dec 2009. The companies had collaborated to develop quizartinib for AML and other indications. The partnership had also aimed to focus on the development of a series of novel FLT3 inhibitors. Responsibilities and expenses for the development of quizartinib or any other product in the US and Europe were to be shared equally. As per the agreement, Ambit had received an upfront cash payment of $40 million and was entitled to receive up to $350 million on the achievement of pre-commercialization milestones.

Astellas decided to end the collaboration due to strategic reasons. Astellas carries a Zacks Rank #4 (Sell). Currently, companies like Lannett Company, Inc. (LCI - Snapshot Report), WuXi PharmaTech (Cayman) Inc. (WX - Snapshot Report) and QLT Inc. (QLTI - Analyst Report) look more attractive. All three carry a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy).

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