Takeda inks a $270M stem cell deal with Kyoto University

Takeda CEO Christophe Weber

Takeda has struck up a 10-year partnership with Japan's Kyoto University to develop potential stem cell treatments for an array of diseases, committing about $270 million to the effort.

Under the agreement, Takeda and the school's Center for iPS Cell Research Application (CiRA) will collaborate on projects using induced pluripotent stem cells to discover new therapies. The pair plan to use stem cells both as potential treatments in their own right and as tools for ferreting out new small-molecule drugs, planning to pursue about 10 projects at a time once up and running. CiRA Director Shinya Yamanaka, a Nobel laureate for his work in stem cells, will lead the effort, which will take an early focus on heart failure, diabetes, CNS disorders and cancer immunotherapy.

To get things going, Takeda is promising about $170 million over the next decade, hosting CiRA scientists at its Shonan Research Center in Fujisawa and planning to put about 100 minds to the project. In addition, the drugmaker is on the hook for another $100 million in research support, including equipment and R&D services, over the life of the collaboration.

The deal dovetails with the Japanese government's ongoing efforts to make the country a global hub for biomedical innovation, and Takeda, the nation's largest pharma company, believes the effort can at once spotlight new therapeutics and advance the science community's understanding of stem cell technology.

"Through this partnership, our company will provide significant assistance over a long period to CiRA's research into iPS cell technology applications, which is a vital part of Japan Revitalization Strategy," Takeda CEO Christophe Weber said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the newly appointed Weber is counting on Takeda's science to finally return the company to growth next year, calling 2015 "an investment year" as the 233-year-old company works to overcome patent losses with new products. Leading Takeda's pipeline is ixazomib, a Phase III blood cancer medicine the drugmaker hopes can succeed its blockbuster Velcade. Late last year, Takeda poached Sanofi ($SNY) veteran Andrew Plump to lead its R&D efforts, instituting Weber's vision of a streamlined research organization focused on areas in which the company can eventually lead the industry.

- read the statement