Takeda recruits GE to help discover new liver treatments

The growing scourge of liver disease in the developed world has spurred a frenzied race among drug developers to ferret out new therapies, and Takeda, new to the field, has recruited the diagnostics experts at GE Healthcare ($GE) to shepherd its early R&D efforts.

The Japanese drugmaker has signed a deal that gives it access to GE's diagnostic technology, which will allow the company to noninvasively map the hardening of liver tissue, a key precursor to a slew of hepatic diseases. Liver fibrosis is often a warning sign of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), two dangerous conditions that have exploded over the past few decades, afflicting more than 100 million people, the company said.

Takeda, which has no disclosed pipeline treatments for liver disease, is relying on GE's technology to steer its discovery efforts in the space, touting its partner's participation as key to effective R&D.

Tadataka Yamada, M.D., Chief Medical & Scientific Officer of Takeda

"This alliance will assist efforts to develop new therapeutic options that ease the burden on the patient," Takeda Chief Medical Officer Tadataka Yamada said in a statement. "Moving forward, we will continue to put the patient first and incorporate a wide range of innovations into the field of drug discovery."

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.

Whether liver disease is an area Takeda can dominate remains to be seen, and the company will have plenty of competition in the space. Intercept Pharmaceutals ($ICPT) has watched its shares bubble and burst with the ongoing development of its NASH-treating drug, while a similar treatment from Lumena Pharmaceuticals helped convince Shire ($SHPG) to buy the company for $260 million. La Jolla Pharmaceuticals' ($LJPC), Conatus ($CNAT) and Raptor are among the other contenders.

- read the statement

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