Evotec allies with Takeda to move into gene therapy R&D

Evotec
Evotec framed its expansion into gene therapy research in terms of being agnostic to modalities. (Evotec)

Evotec has allied with Takeda to expand into gene therapy research. The move sees Evotec establish a 20-person team in Austria, the focal point of Takeda’s gene therapy operation, and sign up to work on programs for its Japanese partner.

Takeda acquired a gene therapy center in Orth an der Donau, Austria, through its acquisition of Shire, which picked up the site two years earlier in its takeover of Baxalta. Throughout the series of changes in ownership, which began when Baxter spun out Baxalta in 2014, a team at the site has worked on gene therapies. 

Now, Evotec is set to start playing a role in those efforts. The German drug discovery shop has set up a gene therapy unit, Evotec GT, staffed by a team of more than 20 scientists in Orth an der Donau who “have worked together for many years.”

Evotec disclosed news of the move into gene therapies alongside details of a multiyear partnership with Takeda. The deal, which features an undisclosed upfront fee and other payments over time, tasks Evotec with applying its new gene therapy capabilities and broader drug discovery platform to Takeda’s cancer, rare disease, neuroscience and gastroenterology programs.

Neither Evotec nor Takeda referred directly to a transfer of employees in the statement to disclose the deal. However, Evotec did reveal that Friedrich Scheiflinger is leading its gene therapy unit. Until recently, Scheiflinger headed up drug discovery for Takeda in Austria, with a particular focus on gene therapies. In light of Evotec’s comments about its new gene therapy team having worked together for years, it is likely that other gene therapy researchers made the move from Takeda with Scheiflinger.  

The agreement gives Evotec a beachhead in the fast-growing gene therapy sector. In explaining (PDF) the rationale for moving into the space, Evotec expressed a desire to be "modality agnostic" and develop wholly and co-owned candidates.