Takeda opens 4th front in assault on celiac, tapping Innate to develop antibody-drug conjugates

Takeda really wants to land a hit on celiac disease. Not content with having just three pipeline prospects, the Japanese drugmaker has partnered with Innate Pharma to attack the disease with another modality: antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs).

The deal sees Takeda pay $5 million upfront and commit up to $410 million in development, regulatory and commercial milestones for the exclusive worldwide rights to develop ADCs using a panel of Innate antibodies against an undisclosed target. Takeda is responsible for all work to develop ADCs directed at the target with a primary focus on celiac disease.

Securing the license opens another front in Takeda’s assault on celiac disease. Since late 2019, the drug developer has struck four deals for celiac candidates, starting with the $420 million agreement it reached with Cour Pharmaceuticals for the phase 2 immune modifying nanoparticle TAK-101.

Months later, Takeda exercised its option to buy PvP Biologics in a deal that could ultimately be worth up to $330 million. The takeover covered a glutenase designed to improve the digestion of gluten that had recently cleared phase 1. After a fallow year, Takeda resumed celiac dealmaking in 2022 by securing the license to develop Zedira and Dr. Falk Pharma’s tissue transglutaminase inhibitor in the U.S.

The three candidates covered by the earlier deals, TAK-101, TAK-062 and TAK-227, are in phase 2 clinical trials. Takeda’s agreement with Innate represents a longer-term bet that ADCs can make a mark on celiac disease. 

While ADCs are an emerging force in cancer therapies, the application of the modality to celiac disease is relatively unexplored. Genentech filed a patent application for ADCs with potential applications in the indication as well as in cancers and other autoimmune disorders in 2015. But public evidence of R&D activity is largely lacking, certainly compared to the steady thrum of research into anti-cancer ADCs.

Takeda definitely does face competition from companies working on other modalities, though. While GSK dropped its celiac project earlier this year, biotechs including Anokion, Calypso Biotech, Equillium, ImmunogenX and Provention Bio remain in the running.