Takeda turned heads at the tail end of 2022 when it announced a $4 billion acquisition of Nimbus Therapeutics’ tyrosine kinase 2 med, now known as TAK-279, throwing the Japanese company squarely in the middle of a hotly-contested immunology battle with Bristol Myers Squibb’s Sotyktu.
Andy Plump, M.D., Ph.D., Takeda’s head of R&D and a member of the company's board, detailed how competitive the dealmaking process was in an interview on the sidelines of this year’s J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference. In fact, “almost every biopharmaceutical company” was in the mix for the asset at some point.
“To the waning hours of the day we signed the deal, there were three companies that were in there,” Plump told Fierce Biotech.
Plump acknowledged that Takeda had been interacting with Nimbus for a “couple of years” but decided to pass on acquiring the med at a cheaper price point due to some outstanding questions. Communication persisted despite the initial hesitancy and Plump said that having gone through extensive due diligence, Takeda felt comfortable with the offer ultimately provided.
“I think having those relationships and ... believing in us was a big part of that decision-making process for them,” Plump said. Nimbus stands to earn two $1 billion milestone payments should TAK-279 reach $4 billion and then $5 billion in revenue, respectively.
Evidence of the competitive landscape and pharma’s appetite for drugs under the immunology and inflammation (I&I) umbrella has been clear in the year since the deal closed, with Roche snapping up Telavant from Roivant for $7.1 billion and Merck & Co. paying $10.8 billion for Prometheus. Roivant also has brepocitinib, a dual TYK2/JAK1 med that recently failed a lupus trial but is gearing up for a registrational study in patients with dermatomyositis.
BMS has led the TYK2 class since getting Sotyktu approved in September 2022 to treat psoriasis, with the drug bringing in $67 million total through the end of September 2023.
Plump is bullish that Takeda’s option will be market-leading. “We will beat them,” he told Fierce. “That’s why we did this deal.”
The R&D chief added that he has immense respect for what BMS has been able to show for this class as a whole but that Takeda’s candidate is a whole different animal. Specifically, the pharmacology of TAK-279 makes it more selective on the TYK2 pathway, allowing more of the drug to be given without risk of inhibiting the JAK1 pathway, a secondary effect that can add efficacy but spurs safety concerns.
Plump called TAK-279 one of the best-made molecules he’s seen in his career.
As a result of the pharmacology, Plump believes TAK-279 will work in inflammatory bowel disease, an area where Sotyktu failed, presumably due to dose-limiting reasons.
“We have strong evidence to believe that's not because TYK2 inhibition doesn't work, but because the doses that they've used have just been too low,” Plump explained. For now, the asset is in two phase 2 trials for psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis, with inflammatory bowel disease studies slated to start this year.