Takeda goes viral

Takeda buys LigoCyte Pharmaceuticals for $60 million cash, adds norovirus vaccine to global pipeline

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OSAKA, Japan—Aimed at expanding its global footprint invaccines, Japan's Takeda Pharmaceutical Inc. has forged an agreement to acquireprivately held Bozeman, Mont.-based biopharmaceutical firm LigoCytePharmaceuticals Inc. for an upfront cash payment of $60 million, includingpotential future undisclosed payouts. The definitive agreement is expected tobe complete by the end of November.
The key strategic benefits of the acquisition includeadvancing Takeda's presence in the global vaccine market and demonstratingTakeda's commitment to global public health, as well as expanding Takeda's developmentpipeline, R&D capacity and position—and specifically, to bring a"first-in-class" vaccine for an unmet health need to populations around theworld and contribute to Takeda's long-term commercial objectives.
"Takeda's acquisition of LigoCyte is a major step forward inthe expansion of Takeda's vaccine business and a demonstration of Takeda'sdedication to preventing illness in children and adults around the world," saysDr. Rajeev Venkayya, executive vice president of Takeda's Vaccine Business Division,which launched in January.
Takeda has been anxious to seal the deal with LigoCyte,which is known for specializing in innovative vaccines, mostly because of itslead product—the norovirus vaccine, which is currently in Phase I/II clinicaltrials, according to joint press release announced Oct 4. It is being developedboth as a liquid for intramuscular injection and as a dry-powder, nasallydelivered formulation. Promising data from a Phase I/II study were published inDecember 2011, demonstrating that the vaccine prevented gastroenteritisdeveloping in nearly 70 percent of participants who were challenged with livenorovirus, while reducing the severity of illness in those that did developgastrointestinal symptoms. The vaccine's proprietary virus-like particleplatform (VLP) technology enables the production of vaccines designed to covermultiple genetic varieties or strains of norovirus. Approval for the vaccinewill be sought in the United States, Europe and other countries based ondisease burden.
"Norovirus is the most common cause of outbreaks ofgastroenteritis and foodborne illness in the U.S., and is responsible for200,000 deaths each year, most of them in developing countries," says Venkayya,a former White House special assistant for biodefense. "With the only norovirusvaccine in clinical trials today, Takeda will be in a position to change thispicture."
The potentially lucrative global deal gives Japan's biggestpharmaceutical company not only access to LigoCyte's experimental norovirusvaccine, but also to vaccines for influenza and rotavirus, a disease whichcauses severe diarrhea in young children and can result in death, Venkayyasays. Each year, outbreaks are reported on cruise ships, in healthcare andlong-term care facilities and in child-care settings, he says. Thisdebilitating and widespread worldwide health problem often leads to closinginfected facilities for cleaning, thus causing a significant disruption ofoperations and economic consequences.
"LigoCyte is pleased to become a part of a leadingresearch-based global pharmaceutical company with a commitment to vaccines andthe resources to develop our pipeline," says Donald P. Beeman, CEO of LigoCyteand a member of the company's board of directors.
In business since 1998, LigoCyte has been focused on avariety of monoclonal antibody and vaccine development programs.
"Our work around norovirus is very unique," Beeman says. "Weare the only pharmaceutical company or vaccine company that has a vaccine forthe prevention of norovirus gastroenteritis in human clinical trials. Thepotential for norovirus is huge. Norovirus strikes people of all ages, thoughit's particularly problematic in the pediatric and geriatric populations. Weknow there is a very substantial opportunity in children, but there is also ahuge opportunity in the elderly population."
It has not been difficult convincing investors to buy intonorovirus, Beeman adds.
"The epidemiology is very, very exciting," he says."Norovirus is increasingly recognized as a serious infection, such that a safeand effective vaccine would be very, very important. So that clearly is thefirst opportunity. The second opportunity relates to influenza and thepotential to have a more efficacious vaccine, perhaps one that actually betterprotects from drifted or mismatched strains. Thirdly, we have a team ofindividuals who can pull this off."
Takeda plans to keep LigoCyte in Montana along with itsstaff and management.

Takeda and Advinus in multiyear drug discoverycollaboration
OSAKA, Japan—Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd. and AdvinusTherapeutics Ltd. have entered into a three-year discovery collaborationfocused on novel targets for major therapeutic areas, including inflammation,central nervous system conditions and metabolic diseases.
Under the terms of the agreement, Takeda will receiveworldwide commercial rights to drug candidates emerging from the alliance.Advinus will receive guaranteed research funding of $36 million over the termof the collaboration, as well as $9 million in milestones leading to candidateselection, and is eligible to receive future clinical and regulatory milestonepayments of up to $45 million per product, plus royalties on product salesworldwide.
"Collaboration with Advinus is one of our initiatives toenhance our research productivity," said Dr. Paul Chapman, general manager ofthe Pharmaceutical Research division of Takeda. "We are very excited to partnerwith Advinus as they have innovative approaches to efficiently generate INDsthat will further strengthen Takeda's drug discovery capabilities, while alsoenhancing our pipeline."

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