Takeda's chief-in-waiting sees big M&A in the drugmaker's future

Christophe Weber

Christophe Weber is next in line for the throne at Takeda, and the former GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) exec has a mind to grow the Japanese pharma through dealmaking, hoping to refill the in-transition company's pipeline and expand in emerging markets.

In an interview with Bloomberg, the current chief operating officer said he's still ironing out Takeda's plans for growth but noted a focus on global expansion and a goal of better developing its internal talent. Weber, a native of France, is slated to take the reins when current Takeda CEO Yasuchika Hasegawa steps down next year, becoming the first non-Japanese chief of the 233-year-old company.

Weber's push for global-minded dealmaking is largely ways a continuation of Hasegawa's evolving strategy. Takeda spent billions to prepare for 2012's patent loss for the diabetes blockbuster Actos, picking up the oncology-focused Millennium for $8.8 billion in 2010 and trading $13.7 billion for dermatology specialist Nycomed in 2011.

However, the ensuing years have been fairly tumultuous for the drugmaker's development efforts. December's late-stage failure of the diabetes drug TAK-875, or fasiglifam, dealt a sizable blow to its diabetes pipeline, and, just last month, the company dumped  top cancer candidate, orteronel, after the former Millennium asset failed to significantly improve overall survival in two studies. On the positive side, in May, Takeda won a first FDA approval for the inflammatory bowel disease drug vedolizumab, the first step in building out a drug the company believes can become a blockbuster. And the company has high hopes for the Phase III ixazomib (MLN9708), a multiple myeloma treatment designed to succeed the top-selling blockbuster Velcade.

Along the way, Takeda has set out to cut about $1 billion from its budget and shed nearly 3,000 jobs around the world, part of a wide-ranging effort to run its business more efficiently.

Now, after Takeda reported its smallest profits in 15 years, it'll be up to Weber to spotlight the right deals and internal programs that will steer the Japanese giant to a brighter future. And, as an outsider, he'll have more to overcome than just stagnant growth.

Last month, a group of about 110 less-than-xenophilic former executives and shareholders penned a note to Takeda management bemoaning its recent embrace of "foreigners," including Weber and recently appointed non-Japanese heads of finance, commercialization and human resources. Weber's status as heir apparent is hardly in jeopardy after winning a board seat at Takeda's annual meeting, but the skittishness over his nationality reflects some growing pains in an insular Japanese business climate that could make his quest to transform the company all the more difficult.

- read the interview