Takeda puts $510M on the line to expand KSQ cancer collaboration

Takeda has doubled down on KSQ Therapeutics, handing over “double-digit millions of dollars” on day one and committing up to $510 million on the back end to research and validate novel tumor-intrinsic targets.

KSQ began working with Takeda in 2021. That agreement, which was worth $100 million in upfront and preclinical milestone payments, covered two T-cell programs and a discovery program to identify natural killer cell targets. Takeda framed the 2021 pact as part of its push to turn cold tumors hot and redirect the innate immune system.

Now, the Japanese drug developer has found another use for KSQ’s CRISPRomics, a discovery platform the biotech pitches as a way to decode the genome to identify optimal gene targets. In the expanded collaboration, KSQ will apply the platform to novel tumor-intrinsic targets.

Tumor-intrinsic targets include mutated oncogenes, epigenetic changes, dysregulation of transcriptional and signal transduction, aberrant pathway and metabolic activity, and DNA damage responses. KSQ’s statement about the deal lacks details about what the collaboration covers beyond the fact it will focus on tumor-intrinsic targets.

Takeda is making an upfront payment and an investment in “the double-digit millions of dollars” to land the deal. The company’s willingness to hand over the cash, with more to follow as the programs advance, is an indication that the relationship it formed with KSQ in 2021 has worked out well so far.

As is typical for early-stage deals involving private biotechs, little news about the progress of the original alliance has emerged since the partners disclosed the agreement in 2021. KSQ CEO Qasim Rizvi used the news of the expanded agreement to share a small update on the earlier deal, revealing in a statement that the collaboration “has already achieved several research milestones.”