Takeda taps Portal Instruments in needle-free drug delivery deal worth up to $100M

Takeda is Portal's first pharma partner with which it is developing its needle-free drug delivering device.

Takeda Pharmaceutical and Portal Instruments are partnering to develop the latter's needle-free drug delivery device for potential use with the former's biologic medicines. Portal stands to earn up to $100 million in milestone payments and royalties. 

The pair will initially focus on Entyvio, Takeda's drug for ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease that is currently administered via intravenous infusion. The drugmaker is already seeking a new way to deliver it, and a subcutaneous formulation of the drug is in phase 3 trial, according to a statement. 

Portal's device is reusable; a patient loads it with a cartridge that is prefilled with a drug and self-administers the dose, said Portal CEO Patrick Anquetil. It works by pressurizing the liquid drug into a jet that, when it contacts the skin, pierces it and delivers the drug to the target area. It was developed in the lab of Ian Hunter at MIT. 

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What sets the device apart is that it is computer-controlled. Anquetil likens the software to cruise control in a car—just as cruise control maintains a car's speed regardless of terrain, the Portal device always delivers the same amount of a biologic, taking into consideration factors such as a change in the drug's viscosity due to temperature. 

“There is a need for options to keep improving the experience for patients with lifelong, chronic conditions that are managed with the intravenous infusions of biologic medicines,” said Stefan Koenig, global program and brand lead at Takeda, in the statement. “This partnership with Portal demonstrates Takeda’s leadership in supporting patients with GI diseases and our commitment to evolve the management of these diseases, such as inflammatory bowel disease, by potentially offering patients the ability to administer treatment in their own at home with a needle-free system.” 

A needle-free system wouldn't just make drug delivery less painful, it also alleviates needle anxiety and speeds up the process, the company said. It can also allay patient concerns, such as the safe disposal of needles and storing needles away from children.

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“This partnership allows us to work collaboratively with Takeda’s highly experienced R&D team and provides the first opportunity to introduce the Portal device to patients, a pivotal step as we continue to expand its potential and grow our business," Anquetil said in the statement. Portal plans to seek exclusive partnerships with pharma companies in other indications. 

"We have a very, very strong vision—a needle-free world," he said. While he acknowledged this is a "bold and broad" vision, he said that these days, the focus is on innovative and life-changing drugs, while the delivery method has been overlooked. 

Another company tackling overlooked practices in healthcare is Velano Vascular, which got its needle-free blood draw device past the FDA earlier this year. While a healthy person may not experience that many needle sticks in a lifetime, a hospitalized patient may have his or her blood drawn several times a day. Velano's device attaches to an indwelling IV catheter that most hospital in-patients already have to take blood samples.