CLEVELAND, Ohio (TheStreet) -- Athersys(ATHX) - Get Report found a partner willing to help develop its off-the-shelf stem cell therapy for stroke in Japan. The timing of the new partnership with Japanese drug maker Chugai is a bit odd, however, coming just one month before Athersys is expected to announce results from an important mid-stage study.

Under terms of the deal announced Monday, Chugai is paying $10 million upfront to Athersys for a license to develop and sell MultiStem in Japan. Athersys is eligible for another $45 million in payments and royalties on sales from Chugai if MultiStem advances through clinical trials and receives regulatory approval.

Chugai decision to license MultiStem for Japan will look prescient or foolish depending on the stem cell therapy's performance in an ongoing phase II study of stroke patients. The study treats 140 patients one or two days after a stroke with MultiStem or a placebo to determine if the stem-cell therapy can improve stroke recovery. The approach used to treat strokes with MultiStem is different from current clot-busting therapies typically given within hours of a stroke occurrence.

Athersys has told investors that interim results from the MultiStem stroke study will be announced in April. The company owns all rights to MultiStem in the U.S. and Europe.

Last April, a study of the same MultiStem therapy failed to demonstrate a significant benefit for patients with ulcerative colitis.

MultiStem is derived from adult bone marrow and is designed to promote tissue repair and reduce inflammation. As an off-the-shelf product, MultiStem can be mass produced and frozen for storage until needed.

Athersys shares were rising 20% to $3.12 on Monday.

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