Fueling those agreements is a fundamental belief that to reinvigorate the pharmaceutical industry, access to innovative science is crucial, according to Daniel Curran, SVP & head of the Japan-based company’s Center for External Innovation.
The company looks for opportunities to partner across a spectrum of players – anything from small, one-person start-ups, to relationships with academia, to collaborating with biotech companies.
“We have really all the tools at our disposal to do any type of transaction that we’d like to,” Curran told Drug Delivery Business News. “Everything from the earliest stages … academic relationships to equity investments in startups to late-stage development collaborations across, really, the entire R&D spectrum.”
The company’s areas of therapeutic interest include oncology, gastroenterology and central nervous system conditions. Takeda has made a number of partnerships in recent months involving these arenas, like its deal with BioSurfaces to develop novel drug-delivery devices intended to treat patients with gastrointestinal diseases.
Takeda goes for two distinct types of arrangements, Curran said. Sometimes the company will reach out to a group with an interesting target or compound in a product-specific arrangement. Other times, the company is looking to invest in platform modalities.
In late August, Takeda inked a co-development deal with AstraZeneca over an antibody treatment for Parkinson’s disease. According to the agreement, AstraZeneca is slated to receive up to $400 million from Takeda.
“We’re quite excited about the antibody deal we just consummated with AstraZeneca. The long-term neurodegenerative diseases are really, really tough to tackle and we believe they’re only going to be tackled in concert by a number of parties so it’s been really helpful for us to partner up with AstraZeneca,” Curran said. “We’re thankful that they choose Takeda. I think they understood and recognized our long-term commitment to neuroscience research. So we’re quite excited about that one.”
To understand the importance of partnerships in the pharmaceutical industry, one only has to look at the drugs approved in the last decade, according to Curran.
“The majority of those drugs emanated from smaller companies or academia,” he said. “It’s not that we don’t have great science within pharmaceutical companies, but most of the innovation, most of the advances are taking place outside of the four walls of our company. So, quite frankly, its an absolute necessity to form external relationships and partnerships to try and access innovation. And then tie that into science and capabilities that we have on the inside.”
The intrinsic structure of large pharmaceutical companies can stifle innovation, Curran said. He pointed to a model that he calls “feeding the beast” – some companies have such large infrastructures to maintain that instead of pouring their funding into developing innovative drugs, they funnel it back to infrastructure.
“We look at that model and say, ‘This is really the wrong model,” he said. “Look where innovation comes from – it really is emerging from everywhere outside the pharmaceutical industry’s labs, for the most part.”
Although often these partnerships with Takeda begin with the Japanese pharma company reaching out to an institution or a biotech company, it’s becoming more common for parties to contact Takeda, Curran said.
“We’re increasingly getting a number of parties coming to talk to us and at earlier and earlier stages, which is great – the earlier we get to an idea the better it is for us,” he explained. “We can begin to think about our plans and we can think about how long it will take for these projects to mature. We can begin to put stuff into our virtual deal pipeline.
“So it’s really about building relationships over a period of time with a large network of individuals, both in academia and the biotech industry,” Curran said. “You’ll continue to see a torrent of deals coming from Takeda.”