Takeda spins off cancer assets to incubated startup  

Takeda building
Chordia’s programs include preclinical CLK inhibitors with applications in cancer and an adult T cell leukemia lymphoma drug.

A team of ex-Takeda scientists has struck out on its own with cancer assets licensed from the drugmaker. The resulting biotech, Chordia Therapeutics, starts life with multiple oncology drugs, lab space at a Takeda site and funding from the Japanese firm and a VC syndicate.

Chordia’s programs include preclinical CDC-like kinase (CLK) inhibitors with applications in cancer and an adult T cell leukemia lymphoma drug. The assets were working their way down Takeda’s pipeline. But with the company rethinking its R&D strategy, a team of six ex-Takeda scientists, including the former head of oncology drug discovery at its Shonan site, has been able to pick up the programs and the means to develop them further.

Takeda is providing support on every front. Chordia has lab space at Takeda’s Shonan site, which is undergoing a transformation into a startup incubator, and funding from its parent company. Kyoto University Innovation Capital, Mitsubishi UFJ Capital and SMBC Venture Capital contributed to Chordia’s series A, too. 

Chordia has also enlisted the support of Kyoto University’s Seishi Ogawa, who will use his work on splicing factor mutations in cancer to help the startup develop CLK inhibitors that kill tumor cells. 

Takeda referred (PDF) briefly to Chordia in its second-quarter results earlier this month, naming it as one of three companies founded through its entrepreneurship venture program. The drugmaker unveiled the others, discovery services shops ChromaJean and Seedsupply, in press releases earlier this year. 

RELATED: Ex-Merck executives launch Cardurion, with a kick-start from Takeda

The emergence of the three startups comes shortly after Takeda spun out another drug discovery service shop, Axcelead. Each company is the result of Takeda’s decision to turn its research center in Shonan, Japan, into a startup incubator. The site is also hosting and supporting other Takeda spinoffs and joint ventures, such as Cardurion, Scohia Pharma and T-Cira.

Takeda’s burst of startup creation activity took place on either side of its 2016 decision to restructure its R&D operation. The headline actions in the restructuring were the refocusing of the operation around four franchises—oncology, gastroenterology, the central nervous system and vaccines—and two geographies, the U.S. and Japan. But the rethink has also led Takeda to conclude some assets are best served by startups, even if they fall within its areas of focus.  

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