Takeda crashes out of Wave discovery pact at cost of $23M

Takeda’s interest in Wave Life Sciences’ discovery programs has ebbed, leading it to exit that part of its alliance with the biotech while keeping the option to license a trio of more advanced programs.

The original agreement dates back to 2018, when Takeda committed a guaranteed $230 million and dangled a potential $1 billion in pre-commercial milestones in front of Wave to form a collaboration. In return, Takeda secured options to co-develop treatments for four diseases of the central nervous system and the chance to license multiple preclinical programs.

Now, Takeda has backed out of the early-stage side of the deal, handing Wave $22.5 million to cover collaboration-related research and preclinical expenses in the process. The amendment leaves Wave free to advance the preclinical programs itself or seek new partners. 

Takeda and Wave have left the other side of the deal unchanged. As such, Takeda still has the right to license drug candidates against three targets—C9orf72, HTT and ATXN3—including prospects that are in the clinic in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, frontotemporal dementia and Huntington’s disease. Wave will receive opt-in payments if Takeda takes up its options.

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Little is known about the programs Takeda is leaving behind. The terms of the collaboration set Wave and Takeda up to work on up to six preclinical targets at a time, but the partners never shared a detailed look at the areas of focus. Wave revealed the name of one of the candidates, WVE-005, and broad details about the approach it is taking in conjunction with its second-quarter financial results earlier this year, giving a glimpse at what may be up for grabs now Takeda has walked away from the discovery pact.

WVE-005 has PN backbone chemistry modifications, changes Wave claims consistently enhance the potency, distribution and durability of effect of oligonucleotides. Wave tested the hypothesis by injecting a single dose of WVE-005 into the fluid around the spinal cord in nonhuman primates, emerging with evidence of broad distribution and knockdown of the target.

“It is this consistent widespread CNS distribution of PN modified oligonucleotides across species, the possibility of infrequent [intrathecal] administration and the availability of disease biomarkers for proof-of-concept studies that are the key feature of our differentiated CNS portfolio moving through preclinical and clinical development,” Mike Panzara, M.D., chief medical officer at Wave, said a quarterly results conference call earlier this year.

Wave is looking to the PN-modified candidates to help it bounce back from the discontinuation of its Duchenne muscular dystrophy drug late in 2019 and the axing of Huntington's prospects in March.