Takeda and NY biotech Ovid ink rare drug development pact

Takeda is making the most of its rumored $15 billion M&A U.S. biopharma war chest.

Takeda, pushing on with its R&D metamorphoses, has signed a research deal and collab with New York’s private biotech Ovid that will see the small company work on the Japanese pharma’s new candidate for a rare form of childhood epilepsy.

The deal is a little different that the usual pact; instead of Takeda buying into a promising med from Ovid, it is Ovid who will help out on the Osaka-based company’s TAK-935, a selective CH24H inhibitor, in rare pediatric epilepsies.

The med has already been under a phase 1 test through Takeda, and is now set to move into phase 1b/2a trials in rare epileptic encephalopathies. This includes Dravet syndrome, Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Tuberous Sclerosis Complex.

Under the deal, Takeda gets equity in Ovid and could also gain milestone payments based on the progress made on TAK-935.

“The companies will share in the development and commercialization costs on a 50/50 basis and, if successful, the companies will share in the profits on a 50/50 basis,” the pair said in a joint statement.

Takeda will lead the sales drive in its native Japan, and also holds the option to lead in Asia and other “selected geographies.”

Ovid, meanwhile, will lead the clinical work and sales activities of TAK-935 in the U.S., Europe, Canada and Israel.

“All activities of the collaboration regarding TAK-935 will be guided by the Takeda/Ovid ‘One Team’ concept, an integrated and interdisciplinary team from both companies devoted to the successful advancement of TAK-935 across rare epilepsy syndromes,” the companies said.  

If all goes well, other orphan CNS indications “may also be pursued,” the two added, but gave no detailed financials associated with the deal.

“Ovid’s agility, exclusive focus on developing therapies for rare neurological diseases and specialized capabilities in central nervous system drug development are highly differentiated and well suited to this important program,” said Emiliangelo Ratti, head of the central nervous system therapeutic area for Takeda.

Ovid’s current lead product candidate is OV101, which is in development for the treatment of symptoms of Angelman syndrome and Fragile X syndrome. Also known as gaboxadol, the drug is according to Ovid the only small molecule highly selective extrasynaptic GABA(A) receptor agonist (SEGA) that has been tested in clinical trials. The med was licensed from Lundbeck in 2015, with the company also taking a minority stake in the biotech.

Jeremy Levin, chair and CEO of Ovid and former Teva head, added: “Working together with Takeda we believe we can build on the strengths and interests of both companies. This is a creative alliance between a biotechnology and pharmaceutical company where not only do we both share the passion and commitment to develop meaningful medicines that may improve the lives of patients worldwide but also, we are able to unlock value in both companies’ pipelines and talent.

“This alliance advances our strategy to become a leader in the rare neurological disorders field. Building on our work with OV101 in Angelman and Fragile X syndromes, the collaboration in rare epilepsies extends our ability to help patient communities who face neurological conditions with limited to no therapeutic options.”

Takeda has been making the most of its rumored $15 billion M&A fund, which last year was said to be targeting U.S. biotech buys.

This year alone, and consider that we’ve been in it for less than three weeks, has seen the Japanese company spend $5.2 billion on Ariad, its marketed cancer med Iclusig and as well as its fledgling lung cancer med brigatinib, while also paying $125 million for a deal with biotech Maverick that centers on a T-cell research deal, and also comes with a 5-year buyout clause.

That came a week after Takeda, in a similar deal structure, said it would pay $35 million for tiny, early-stage PvP Biologics in a GI pact, with an acquisition also here on the cards.

Last month, Takeda and VC Lightstone also came together to launch Cerevance, a new company focused on neuroscience R&D for neurological and psychiatric disorders that will get the help of U.K. scientists (a country it had looked to largely exit from) and be headed up by biotech vet Brad Margus.

In July, it also struck a potential $400 million biobucks research deal with Belgium’s TiGenix, coming a few days after signed a deal with single-asset biotech Alto to work on its its early-stage study for ATC-1906, which is being tested for certain aspects of gastroparesis, and also holds an option to buy out the tiny Californian biotech at the end of phase 1 testing.

Last fall, Takeda also announced a major shake-up of its clinical and drug development as it began to move hundreds of its staff over to PRA Health, with the CRO set to take over control of much of its operations in the U.S. and Europe.

This all 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, Takeda’s CSO and R&D head Andy Plump 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.

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.

Takeda is also under pressure from a looming loss of its U.S. patent on its top-selling blood cancer drug Velcade (bortezomib), with further losses expected after 2020 from a host of other meds.