OSAKA, Japan and BOZEMAN, Mont.—Throughits wholly-owned subsidiary, Takeda America Holdings Inc., Japanesepharma powerhouse Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd. plans to acquireLigoCyte Pharmaceuticals Inc. for an upfront payment of $60 million,with "future contingent consideration based on the progress ofdevelopment projects."
Montana-based LigoCyte is aprivately-held biopharmaceutical company specializing in vaccineproducts, and its lead product, a vaccine to prevent norovirusgastroenteritis, is currently in Phase I/II. LigoCyte's vaccineproducts are based on its proprietary virus-like particle platform(VLP) technology. The norovirus vaccine that currently leads thecompany's portfolio uses that VLP technology, which reportedlyenables the production of vaccines designed to cover multiple geneticvarieties of norovirus. The vaccine candidate is said to have shownan ability to confer protection in an initial human challenge trial.Approval for the vaccine will be sought in the United States, Europeand other countries based on disease burden.
VLPs are designed to mimic the externalprotein structure of a virus without including the genetic materialnecessary for viral replication. The idea is that human immune systemwill respond to a VLP vaccine as if it is encountering the livevirus, allowing the body to build immune defenses capable of fightinginfections. However, because VLP vaccines lack viral geneticmaterial, they are reportedly incapable of causing infectionsthemselves.
"Takeda's acquisition of LigoCyteis a major step forward in the expansion of Takeda's vaccinebusiness, and a demonstration of Takeda's dedication to preventingillness in children and adults around the world," said Dr.Rajeev Venkayya, executive vice president of Takeda's VaccineBusiness Division, which was launched in January 2012. "Norovirusis the most common cause of outbreaks of gastroenteritis andfoodborne illness in the U.S., and is responsible for 200,000 deathseach year, most of them in developing countries. With the onlynorovirus vaccine in clinical trials today, Takeda will be in aposition to change this picture."
Each year, outbreaks of norovirus arereported on cruise ships, in healthcare and long-term care facilitiesand in childcare settings, often requiring closure of facilities forcleaning, and resulting in significant disruption of operations andeconomic consequences, Takeda notes. According to the U.S. Centersfor Disease Control and Prevention, norovirus infects 21 millionpeople annually in the United States alone.
"Norovirus is responsible for asignificant burden of disease around the world and is notoriouslydifficult to control. With this acquisition, Takeda will help toprotect families and communities from this virus," noted Dr.Tadataka Yamada, Takeda's chief medical and scientific officer and amember of its board of directors.
In addition to the norovirus vaccinecandidate, LigoCyte has also initiated preclinical development ofvaccines against respiratory syncytial virus, influenza androtavirus.
"LigoCyte is pleased to become apart of a leading research-based global pharmaceutical company with acommitment to vaccines and the resources to develop our pipeline,"said Donald P. Beeman, CEO of LigoCyte and a member of the company'sboard of directors. "Together, we believe we have the rightcombination of expertise and dedication to bring our norovirusvaccine to market. We look forward to supporting Takeda's vaccineresearch and development efforts and contributing to the long-termsuccess of Takeda's Vaccine Business Division."
To "preserve continuity and buildupon LigoCyte's success," Takeda officials indicate they willcontinue operating LigoCyte in Bozeman for the foreseeable future andintend to retain the management team and its employees.