Takeda R&D reboot continues with Stanford drug discovery deal

Four to eight projects will be run by the partners at any given time.

Takeda's R&D shake-up continues to rumble on, with the Japanese drugmaker signing a wide-ranging deal that will see it work closely with researchers at Stanford University

Like most drugmakers, Takeda has long been extolling the virtues of forging closer links with academic research teams, and the new three-year agreement—to create the Stanford Alliance for Innovative Medicines—firms up that strategy.

Stanford AIM will bring researchers from the company and university together to "transform novel Stanford research into next-generation treatments for diseases," said Takeda.

The partners say they expect to begin taking proposals from Stanford lab teams in October, including clear criteria for success during each research phase, and Takeda and Stanford will then cherry-pick the most promising projects. The aim is to finalize the first run of projects by early next year, according to Stanford, and Takeda's development muscle will then be applied to try to bring the programs through development and to market. Between four and eight projects will be run by the partners at any given time.

"Stanford AIM's purpose is to accelerate the translation of Stanford's cutting-edge discoveries into real treatments for human disease," said Chaitan Khosla, a professor of chemistry and chemical engineering and director of Stanford ChEM-H (Chemistry, Engineering, and Medicine for Human Health), which will oversee the program. "The collaboration also 'de-risks' projects born at Stanford, making it much easier to license them out for further development."

It's not the first strategic-level collaboration for Takeda as it tries to reinvent its R&D operations. In April, it provided details of a big deal with contract research organization PRA Health to create a joint venture with the objective of accelerating drug development. A year ago, Takeda shook up its clinical and drug development as it moved hundreds of its staff over to PRA, effectively integrating the CRO within its U.S. and European R&D operations, and extended the JV to include Japan in February.

The deal with Stanford sets up a collaboration earlier in the R&D process and continues a retooling of Takeda's R&D that has also seen it focus on three core therapeutic areas: oncology, gastroenterology and central nervous system therapies.

In-licensing of programs discovered by external groups has also been markedly stepped up, including a string of deals with early-stage biotechs in recent months. Last month Takeda signed another upstream R&D pact with in silico drug discovery company Schrödinger, a specialist in computational chemistry.