News Release

Yaskawa Partners with Astellas Pharma on Building a Cell Therapy Platform
Combining Robotics and Pharmaceutical Technologies

NewsMay 21, 2024

Yaskawa Electric Corporation (Head Office: Kita-Kyushu, Fukuoka, Japan; Representative Director, President: Masahiro Ogawa) announces that on Friday, May 17, the Company signed a MOU (memorandum of understanding) with Astellas Pharma Inc. (Head Office: Tokyo; President and CEO: Naoki Okamura; hereafter “Astellas Pharma”) to start discussion to build an innovative cell therapy platform by combining robotics and pharmaceutical technologies. The MOU is a legally non-binding agreement on a partnership between the two companies, and specific discussions will proceed from now on.


Based on this MOU, the two companies aim to jointly build a new cell therapy platform that may potentially seamlessly bridges the initial stage of research in the cell therapy field to its commercialization, enabling high quality manufacturing of cell therapy products as well as shortening the research and development period. The platform contemplated by both companies may then be provided to startups and academic institutions. This may help reduce investment in the manufacturing of investigational drugs under the Pharmaceutical and Medical Device Act*1, and the two companies would also consider building beneficial services that can contribute to the discovery and development of innovation.


In the development of cell therapy products to new drug approval, the work process relies on the craftsmanship, and the low stability and reproducibility of production is one of the major challenges to commercializing cell therapy independently by startups and academic institutions.

Also there remain many challenges, such as the difficulties in transferring technology from basic research to manufacturing or commercial production in line with GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice), as well as the requirement for large and expensive manufacturing-related investments.


Amid this backdrop, Astellas Pharma has installed “Maholo”, a dual-arm robot designed and marketed for biological applications at the end of 2017, and has been pursuing drug discovery and manufacturing technology development in cell therapy. In this partnership, it would make use of this “Maholo” to provide innovative cell manufacturing technologies, clinical development, and regulatory expertise related to cell therapy to build its platform.


Meanwhile, Yaskawa has been developing and promoting clean environment robots for healthcare, food, and agriculture, with the expansion of its business in the mechatronics application area as one of the main strategies of the new mid-term business plan “Realize 25”.

It is strengthening its initiatives to utilize the expertise it has developed in cell therapy. And through this partnership, the Company anticipates the practical use of i³-Mechatronics, a solution concept incorporating digital data with the factory automation, and increase the value of the Yaskawa Group in the medical field, with the cell therapy field at its key.


The partnership that leverages mutual strengths may potentially accelerate the commercialization, stable supply, and profit making of new drugs, as well as improve the development environment. In the end, Yaskawa would contribute to the realization of a sustainable society in the cell therapy field through collaboration with Astellas Pharma.
*1 The Pharmaceutical and Medical Device Act is the law on ensuring the quality, efficacy and safety of pharmaceuticals, medical devices, etc.


Astellas Pharma News Release

New Mid-Term Business Plan “Realize 25” News Release


For inquires, contact:

Corporate Communications Dept.

YASKAWA Electric Corporation



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