Under the agreement, Takeda America Holdings, a wholly ownedsubsidiary of Takeda, will acquire Intellikine for $190 million upfront and upto $120 million in additional potential clinical development milestonepayments. At press time, the agreement was expected to be finalized at the endof January.
Intellikine has assembled a portfolio of small-moleculekinase inhibitors that selectively target isoforms of the phosphoinositide-3kinase/mammalian target of rapamycin (PI3K1/mTOR2) pathway. The company'sassets include ongoing Phase I clinical programs involving selective inhibitionof mTOR kinase and isoform-specific inhibition of PI3Kα, as well as a partnered program involvingresearch and development of isoform-specific inhibitors of PIK3Kδ and PI3Kγ anda robust discovery research platform in small-molecule kinase inhibitors.Intellikine's most advanced drug candidate, INK128, a novel mTORC1/2 inhibitor,has generated encouraging data in multiple Phase I studies and is expected toenter Phase II studies in 2012. INK1117, a novel and selective inhibitor of thePI3Kα isoform,entered human clinical testing in September 2011.
Partnering with industry leaders has always been a keycomponent of Intellikine's growth strategy, according to Dr. Troy Wilson, thecompany's president and CEO. For example, in July 2010, the company enteredinto a collaboration agreement with Infinity Pharmaceuticals to develop oraltherapies targeting PIK3Kδ and PI3Kγ for indications including cancer as wellas immune-mediated inflammatory diseases. The collaboration providedIntellikine with $13.5 million in an initial license payment, committedresearch funding for two years, up to $25 million in success-based milestonesfor development of two distinct product candidates and up to $450 million insuccess-based milestones for the approval and commercialization of twoproducts.
"We didn't do a lot of basic research at Intellikine,"explains Wilson. "We worked with academic collaborators and CROs, providingthem with compounds and working with them to determine how best to use them. Ithink that is an important lesson for how biotechs will operate going forward.On the one hand, there is a huge understanding of biology in academia that isexcited to work with biotech, while on the other, it's not something that iscost-effective for most biotech companies to do. So there's a great fit. Weknew PI3K was a hugely competitive space, and although as a tiny little companywe knew we could compete from discovery to proof-of-concept, when you start togo into Phase II, you need significant resources. You can definitely run one ortwo Phase II trials with a small company, but ultimately, you have aresponsibility to do what is best for patients."
It was this foresight and talent that attracted Takeda toIntellikine, says Daniel Curran, vice president of business development atTakeda.
"We have been impressed by the change in Intellikine overthe past two and a half years as the company progressed from focusing onpreclinical drug discovery of lead compounds to moving three molecules into theclinic," Curran says.
Intellikine's targets are not limited to oncologyapproaches, he notes. mTOR—which stands for stands for mammalian Target OfRapamycin—is a serine/threonine protein kinase that regulates cell growth, cellproliferation, cell motility, cell survival, protein synthesis andtranscription, and integrates the input from upstream pathways, includinginsulin, growth factors and amino acids, Curran says.
"The mTOR pathway has been implicated in a number of otherdiseases, and has a strong scientific foundation in metabolic regulation anddiabetes," he points out. "Takeda is a leader in metabolic disease and thediabetes field, so this is a good fit for us."
Intellikine's success "speaks to the quality of theindividuals at the company, who are highly capable and sophisticated in drugdiscovery and development," says Curran.
"The ability to acquire and retain the scientific talent atIntellikine was very attractive to us," he adds.
Takeda's California offices are located within a mile of theLa Jolla facilities that house Intellikine's three dozen employees, who arebeing offered positions at Takeda.
"We actually managed to close the acquisition and retain thevast majority of Intellikine's individuals," says Curran. "They have become apart of the Takeda organization, and we are very excited about the opportunityfor this team to continue their work."
As for Wilson, who describes himself as a "serialentrepreneur," he will not be joining the Takeda team. Having served in manyfounding roles at Ambrx, Wildcat Discovery Technologies and the GenomicsInstitute of the Novartis Research Foundation, Wilson will now explore otherbusiness ventures.
"I'll likely be involved in something new with good science,good people and ideally, the opportunity to make an impact for both patientsand investors in a relatively short period of time," he says.