Takeda bets up to $900M on Immusoft's cell therapies for neurometabolic disorders

Immusoft has inked its first Big Pharma collaboration in a deal with biotech's best friend Takeda worth up to $900 million that sees the pair work on cell therapies in rare inherited disorders.

The pact will focus on neurometabolic disorders, Immusoft said Wednesday. The deal comes as the Seattle-based biotech nears the clinic for the first time in its decadelong journey working on sustained protein delivery for rare diseases. 

For Takeda's part, the cell therapy deal augments the Big Pharma's regenerative medicine push, which includes a $3.6 billion biobucks pact with Poseida Therapeutics yesterday, a $1.12 billion deal with Selecta Biosciences last week and a $303 million collab with Genevant in August. 

Immusoft snags an undisclosed upfront payment and research funding to study treatments that modify a person's B cells in the hopes of instructing the cells to deliver gene-encoded therapies. 

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These targeted cells are the "dedicated biofactories of the immune system," said CEO Sean Ainsworth in an interview with Fierce Biotech.

"They’re producing and releasing thousands of antibodies per second. They far outpace any other cell type in protein production," Ainsworth said. 

Takeda can exclusively license the programs as early as the preclinical stage, at which point the Japenese Big Pharma would be responsible for the rest of development and commercialization.

The Takeda deal could vault to $900 million if all options are exercised and milestones achieved. The funds give the biotech "substantial additional runway" as it begins looking at future financing, Ainsworth said. The company closed a $33 million series B last year, which was previously undisclosed, the CEO said.

With its first Big Pharma deal, Immusoft is also now primed to consider other partnerships. The biotech has had discussions around using its platform in oncology, infectious diseases and other areas, Ainsworth said. 

RELATED: Immusoft names former Amgen biologics head as chief scientific officer

Beyond the Takeda pact, Immusoft expects to file for regulatory approval of a phase 1 trial in its lead asset in Hurler syndrome before year-end and begin human studies shortly thereafter, Ainsworth said. Hurler syndrome, or mucopolysaccharidosis (MPS) type 1, is a rare disease in which there's not enough of a certain enzyme to break down sugar molecules.

The biotech will also ramp up development of its discovery-stage asset for MPS2 next year, Ainsworth said. MPS2, or Hunter syndrome, is another rare and inherited disorder impacting the ability to digest sugar molecules.