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Japanese drugmaker Astellas said late Sunday it would acquire eye drug developer Iveric Bio for $5.9 billion, betting heavily on a prospective treatment for a form of vision loss that affects around 1 million people in the U.S.

Iveric had been competing with another biotech, Apellis Pharmaceuticals, to develop the first therapy for geographic atrophy, a disease of aging in which parts of the retina waste away, forming irreversible blind spots. Apellis’s drug, Syfovre, was approved in February, but the Food and Drug Administration is expected to rule on Iveric’s drug candidate by Aug. 19.


Because of the size of the patient population and lack of alternatives, both therapies could become blockbusters.

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