Takeda targets gastrointestinal disease with its latest R&D deal

Takeda, in the process of trimming down its R&D efforts, has inked a collaborative research deal with Australia's Monash University to discover and develop new treatments for gastrointestinal diseases.

Under the agreement, Takeda will fund a three-year research program in which investigators from the school's Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences will work alongside its own scientists to break down the underlying causes of disorders like irritable bowel syndrome, severe constipation and chronic diarrhea. Leaning on the Melbourne university's expertise in drug discovery and nanomedicine, Takeda hopes to spotlight new therapeutic targets for unmet medical needs, the company said.

The partnership bolsters Takeda's long-running interest in gastrointestinal medicine. Earlier this year, the Japanese drugmaker won FDA approval for the inflammatory bowel disease treatment vedolizumab, marketed as Entyvio, and Takeda is working through Phase III trials with vonoprazan, a drug designed to block stomach acids and treat gastroesophageal reflux disease.

"Takeda's gastroenterology drug discovery unit is a highly specialized research team that works collaboratively with academic and industry partners," R&D General Manager Tetsuyuki Maruyama said in a statement. "The team is actively seeking to leverage the best scientific and pharmaceutical expertise all over the world."

Meanwhile, the company is in the midst of an organizational a transition as COO Cristophe Weber prepares to take the reins next year, promising a more "stringent" approach to R&D that would focus spending on areas in which Takeda could compete for the lead. Following the same philosophy, last year, the company unveiled an efficiency plan that calls for nearly 3,000 job cuts in the U.S. and Europe to save about $1 billion by 2017.

Weber has stressed that collaboration is key to Takeda's future in R&D, and the Monash partnership follows a similar deal with GE Healthcare ($GE) through which the two companies will collaborate on early-stage development for liver disease treatments.

- read the statement (PDF)