Takeda taps Skyhawk's RNA-targeting tech for neurodegenerative disease

This Takeda deal marks the fourth industry partnership for Skyhawk Therapeutics. It has also teamed up with Celgene, Biogen and Lakepharma. (RawPixel via Unsplash)

RNA biotech Skyhawk Therapeutics is inking another R&D deal—this time, it’s with Takeda Pharmaceutical, which wants to use the biotech’s platform to develop small molecules that correct RNA mis-splicing in neurodegenerative disease. 

Under the deal, Skyhawk will use its SkySTAR technology to discover and develop molecules for “certain neurological disease targets” through the preclinical stage, after which Takeda will take over clinical development and commercialization. The Japanese pharma picks up the worldwide rights to develop and market drugs against “multiple targets,” while Skyhawk receives the usual upfront fee and potential milestones and royalties down the line. The duo kept those figures under wraps. 

This deal marks the fourth industry partnership for the Waltham, Massachusetts-based company. Last summer, Skyhawk inked a $60 million partnership with Celgene, under which the Big Biotech could license up to five new drug candidates from the deal. At the time, Skyhawk also picked up $40 million in a new funding round of common stock. The biotech hoped the combined $100 million would boost its first cancer drug to the clinic, separately from the Celgene collaboration, in 2019. 

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The Celgene deal followed a $74 million pact struck in January with Biogen focused on developing meds for multiple sclerosis, spinal muscular atrophy and other neurological diseases. Skyhawk also counts Lakepharma, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, MIT and ETH Zurich, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, among its partners. 

Skyhawk’s SkySTAR tech—short for Small molecule Therapeutics for Alternative splicing of RNA—is designed to target specific binding pocket regions of RNA. These sites can be left out during key steps in the RNA splicing process, causing mis-splicing. The company hopes that reversing this skipping could treat the underlying causes of various diseases.