- Japanese drugmaker Takeda Pharmaceutical is teaming up with Nektar Therapeutics to investigate combinations pairing the San Francisco-based biotech's lead immuno-oncology candidate with five different cancer compounds from Takeda's own portfolio.
- Initial preclinical work will test NKTR-214, which targets CD122 receptors to boost proliferation of T-cells and natural killer cells, in combination with other targeted agents in lymphoma, melanoma and colorectal cancers.
- No detailed financial information was disclosed, although the two companies plan to share costs tied to the preclinical studies. Each drugmaker retains global commercial rights to their respective drug candidates.
Takeda Pharmaceutical has had a busy few quarters as it continues to restructure and refocus. The Japanese drugmaker aims to strengthen and consolidate its R&D base in the U.S. and Japan, bolstering its efforts in oncology, gastroenterology and the central nervous system.
In oncology, Takeda's January acquisition of Ariad Pharmaceuticals for $5.2 billion has borne fruit quickly, with the Food and Drug Administration earlier this month granting approval of Alunbrig (brigatinib) for second-line treatment of ALK+ non-small cell lung cancer.
Takeda has trials underway to expand Alunbrig's indication and hopes the drug can compete with existing treatment options like Pfizer's Xalkori (crizotinib) and Roche's Alecensa (alectinib). More generally, Alunbrig strengthens the drugmaker's oncology presence in the U.S.
While the deal for Ariad is the highest profile example of Takeda's stepped-up efforts in oncology, the drugmaker has been signing a number of smaller deals to deepen its pipeline in earlier stages.
Last October, Takeda struck up a small oncology collaboration with the British Crescendo Biologics, gaining access the biotech's drug conjugate platform.
Then, in January, Takeda snagged the Japanese rights to Exelixis' cancer drug cabozantinib in a deal that could be worth $145 million, and made a $125 million investment in T-cell company Maverick Therapeutics. That agreement also gives Takeda the right to take over the biotech after the five years of the deal's terms.
The new collaboration with Nektar will explore the impact of Nektar's CD122 agonist on the tumor microenvironment, particularly in stimulating immune cell proliferation and PD-1 expression. Such effects, if validated, would make the compound a promising candidate for combinations with other targeted therapies.
At the same time as Takeda has expanded in oncology, the pharma has slimmed its R&D footprint in an effort to up efficiency and free up resources.
In February, Takeda signed a deal with Bushu Pharmaceuticals, transferring across part of its pharmaceutical sciences and chemistry, manufacturing and controls business. Following this, in May, Takeda spun off part of its pharma research business to its wholly-owned subsidiary Spera Pharma, freeing up resources for its drug discovery platform and the creation of a Health Innovation Park at the Shonan Research Center, Fujisawa City, Japan. The shares were then transferred to Bushu as part of the original deal.
Takeda has also established Scohia Pharma in collaboration with Innovation Network Corporation of Japan and Medipal Holdings Corporation to take on eight of Takeda’s renal, metabolic and cardiovascular research and development projects.