In the midst of an R&D shift, Takeda inks $790M cancer collab with Crescendo

Takeda has been making some serious moves in R&D this year: signing deals here, cutting back there, and also handing over much of its R&D work to CRO PRA health--in October, it’s showing no signs of slowing down after penning a major oncology pact with early-stage UK biotech Crescendo Biologics.

Details were a little thin on the ground, but in a brief statement the pair said they had joined forces in a pact worth up to $790 million in a “global, strategic, multi-target collaboration and license agreement” to find and develop and cancer meds coming out of the biotech’s Humabody-based therapeutics.

Exact cancer targets were not give, but there will be aimed at forms of the disease with “a high unmet medical need.”

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Under the pact, Crescendo will use its transgenic platform to discover and mould its Humabody candidates (that are drug conjugates and I/O modulators) against “multiple targets” selected by the Japanese pharma.

Breaking down the money-side of things, Crescendo could get up to $36 million as an upfront payment, as well as investment, research funding and preclinical milestones from Takeda--with the pharma nabbing the rights to develop and commercialize Humabody-based meds coming out of the collaboration.

Crescendo can also look forward to around $754 million in biobucks, and could also gain royalties on Humabody-based product sales by Takeda, should they gain approval.

“This collaboration with Takeda represents a significant step forward for Crescendo. It provides validation of our transgenic platform and our capabilities to rapidly assemble and configure small, differentiated Humabody-based therapeutics, opening routes to novel biology,” said Dr. Peter Pack, CEO of Cambridge, UK-based Crescendo Biologics.

“As a leading global pharmaceutical company, Takeda brings extraordinary expertise in the oncology area with significant capabilities in developing and delivering novel medicines to patients. This first major collaboration enables us to potentially broaden and accelerate innovative Humabody-based product candidates.”

Takeda has been ramping up on its R&D deals this year, with this agreement the latest in a series of pacts, including the backing and future promise of a buyout for the tiny Californian single-asset biotech Altos Therapeutics back in July, and just a week later the $400 million-plus deal with Belgium-based stem cell firm TiGenix.

And back in August, the Financial Times ran a story alleging that Takeda had a $15 billion M&A war chest for U.S. deals in the coming year, although this was not confirmed by the Osaka-based co.

But this comes during a major shift in its R&D philosophy, which has seen it drop some programs and buy in more deeply into others as it wants to run first-in-class GI, oncology, vaccines and CNS projects.

Back in July Andy Plump, Takeda’s CMO and CSO, said the company’s goal was to “become the best R&D organization in our industry,” but said that in order to do this, it needs to “first build new capabilities and embrace new ways of working.”

This includes trimming back across some research areas, i.e., those outside of the four-core focus, as well as doubling down its geographic efforts on its native Japan and the U.S., two of the world’s biggest pharma markets.

And a month ago the pharma also announced its latest victim of its refocus, saying it was killing off a deal with MacroGenics ($MGNX) that had seen it developing its DART candidate MGD010.

In an unprecedented move, a week before this announcement Takeda also said it would in essence be handing much of its R&D work in North American and Europe over to the U.S. CRO PRA Health.

Takeda has struggled with profitability in recent years, with its last major deal going back to 2011 when it shelled out nearly $14 billion for Swiss biotech Nycomed, but looks to be back on the biotech trail to ensure longer term growth prospects. 

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