Takeda cuts ties to cancer drug landed in $120M Turnstone deal

Takeda is walking away from a cancer prospect it picked up in a $120 million deal. In a pipeline clear-out (PDF) that also hit narcolepsy candidate TAK-994, the Japanese drugmaker revealed it has returned the rights to oncolytic virus TAK-605 to Turnstone Biologics just 31 months after inking a deal for the drug. 

Turnstone struck its deal in late 2019 with Takeda, which paid $120 million to co-develop RIVAL-01, also known as TBio-6517 and TAK-605, and enter into a discovery collaboration. The next year, the partners moved RIVAL-01 into a phase 1/2 Keytruda combination trial to assess the effect of intratumoral and intravenous doses of the oncolytic virus on solid tumor patients. 

Now, Takeda has dropped the candidate, according to its quarterly financial report. Citing “strategic reasons,” the company has terminated the collaboration and returned the global rights for the asset to Turnstone. The companies will continue to collaborate on the discovery of new candidates using Turnstone’s platform.

Takeda’s deal with Turnstone was part of a wave of interest in oncolytic viruses. With immunotherapies such as Keytruda proving ineffective in patients with “cold” tumors, Takeda and other companies zeroed in on oncolytic viruses as a way to turn tumors “hot” and thereby enable more people to benefit from checkpoint inhibitors. 

Takeda disclosed news of the termination of the collaboration alongside other updates to its pipeline, including the confirmation of the demise of TAK-994. The company stopped two phase 2 trials of the oral orexin agonist, which was designed to increase wakefulness in narcolepsy patients, last year in response to a safety signal. At that time, Takeda said it would evaluate the data before deciding on the next steps.

The assessment of the benefit-risk profile led Takeda to opt against further development of TAK-994. Instead, the company will shift its attention to its orexin-2 receptor agonists TAK-861 and TAK-925. The continuation of work on the two phase 1 candidates suggests Takeda thinks the safety signal is specific to TAK-994 rather than a classwide problem. 

Takeda also removed phase 1 Clostridium difficile infection candidate TAK-039 from its pipeline. The company called the action a “strategic decision” intended to “further optimize the portfolio.”