Takeda taps Selecta for $1.1B gene therapy research pact

After a tough pre-pandemic rout that saw it slash staff, steer around a cash crunch and face a bitter setback in the clinic, Selecta Biosciences is bouncing back with a major new biobucks pact with Japan’s Takeda.

The Big Pharma, no stranger to bolt-on and biobucks deals, has penned a $1.12 billion milestone-based research deal to work with Selecta's ImmTOR platform. (An upfront is thrown in, but they are keeping mum on the dollar amount; it's likely a small percentage of that $1.1 billion.)

This tech uses tolerogenic therapies that selectively alleviate unwanted immune responses and will be used by Takeda “to develop targeted, next-generation gene therapies for two indications within the field of lysosomal storage disorders,” it said in a statement.

Specifics are thin with no update on targets or timelines, although a key focus will be getting around current AAV-driven gene therapy problems that can heighten safety risks.

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Takeda also recently penned a smaller $300 million deal with gene therapy play Genevant, which focuses on liver disease, as it looks to have several shots on goal in this promising yet clearly risky area. It just needs to look to fellow native Japanese pharma Astellas, which has been hit by multiple deaths and FDA trial holds for its Audentes-backed trials in recent months for a rare gene therapy.

“Takeda is an ideal partner to maximize the potential of our ImmTOR platform in gene therapy. Their extensive capabilities as a global biopharmaceutical leader and expertise in rare diseases gives us a high degree of confidence that Selecta’s vision will be realized,” said Carsten Brunn, Ph.D., president and chief at Selecta.

Selecta has endured its own problems. Back in 2019, the company said it was laying off more than one-third of its workforce after the biotech sought to eke out its cash reserves and advance a gout drug that disappointed investors in phase 2.

Fast-forward two years, and the focus has doubled down on gene therapy; though things have not always been smooth here, either. Back in April, former partner AskBio decided to walk away from a gene therapy pact focused on methylmalonic acidemia, also out of its ImmTOR platform, though AskBio said this was for “internal reasons.” It will hope to have a longer-term relationship with Takeda.

“Partnerships are critical as we look to build differentiated gene therapy programs where we have the opportunity to combine novel platform technologies that each aim to solve the challenges associated with first-generation gene therapies,” added Madhu Natarajan, head of Takeda’s rare diseases drug discovery unit.

“Selecta’s ImmTOR platform is designed to mitigate unwanted immune responses allowing for redosing, which could have broad applicability across our gene therapy programs for a range of diseases.”