Takeda, Schrödinger form multiprogram drug discovery pact

After outsourcing most of its clinical development efforts to PRA Health Sciences, Takeda is once again seeking help from outside forces, this time in the upper stream, forming a multiyear R&D collaboration with in silico drug discovery expert Schrödinger.

Under the agreement, Schrödinger will utilize its computer-powered drug discovery capabilities to try to identify small-molecule drug candidates within Takeda’s therapeutic areas of interest.

After an R&D overhaul announced last July, the Japanese pharma has refocused its R&D efforts on three therapeutic areas, namely oncology, gastroenterology and central nervous system, and these will very likely be the center of the new deal formed with Schrödinger.

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Schrödinger will, for the most part, be on its own—responsible for the discovery and ensuing costs—but Takeda will play a supporting role, providing protein crystal structures from its in-house team to aide the design of new chemical entities, Takeda’s head of research Stephen Hitchcock, Ph.D., said in a statement.

“We've established a workflow where we perform high-throughput virtual screening for hits, followed by increasingly more rigorous methods to optimize the lead compound,” Shi-Yi Liu, Schrödinger’s SVP of marketing told FierceBiotech.

After the early drug discovery phase, Takeda has the option to exclusively license the programs from Schrödinger by paying milestones of up to $170 million per project, as well as royalties on future sales.

This is not the first time the two companies’ paths have crossed. Last September, Schrödinger started to provide its in silico materials science, biologics and small-molecule drug discovery suites to researchers within Tri-Institutional Therapeutics Discovery Institute (Tri-I TDI), a nonprofit corporation established in 2013 by Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, the Rockefeller University and Weill Cornell Medical College that focuses on early drug discovery and transforming novel candidates into treatments for patients.

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The institute’s very first collaboration is with Takeda. Tri-I TDI and Takeda expanded their relationship last June from just small-molecule discovery to also include antibodies, an area of interest Takeda still maintains after the R&D refocus.

Now, by directly working with Schrödinger, Takeda is offloading some of the R&D heavy lifting to a company with state-of-the-art computational chemistry platform. This follows the pharma’s earlier effort to transfer its U.S. and European clinical development and post-approval needs, along with the staff doing the work, to North Carolina-based CRO PRA Health Sciences. The two later expanded the deal, forming a Japanese JV that takes care of the pharma’s clinical efforts in its home country.