Takeda taps Scripps as the pharma extends early-stage pipeline

Takeda Pharmaceutical is leaning on academics to support its efforts to discover new drugs. The Japanese drug giant has expanded an alliance with the Scripps Research Institute outpost in Jupiter, FL, hunting for new drugs to combat multiple diseases.

The expanded research deal builds on Scripps' research pact that began in 2010 with Envoy Therapeutics, which Takeda gobbled up in a $140 million acquisition in November 2012, gaining Envoy's preclinical pipeline of compounds against Parkinson's disease, schizophrenia and other neurological conditions. The East Coast labs of Scripps, which also has a large presence in La Jolla, CA, has worked with Envoy since the early days of the company, providing high-throughput screening to match compounds with the biotech's novel CNS targets.

Takeda is pouring more resources into the Scripp-Envoy collaboration as Japan's No. 1 drugmaker beefs up its early-stage pipeline. During the J.P. Morgan Healthcare conference in January, Takeda R&D chief Dr. Tadataka Yamada noted his desire to find new therapies at the beginning stages of development, highlighting the acquisitions of Envoy Therapeutics and Intellikine as deals that aided this effort. Yamada oversees the world's 7th-largest drug pipeline, which is deep with late-stage candidates that account for about a third of the portfolio. So early-stage programs are in demand.

Like Takeda, pharma players have happily outsourced discovery work to academic labs such as Scripps, The Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute and others. The trend has made the academics important allies in Big Pharma's struggles to find innovative new drugs to replace aging brands facing heavy competition.

"We're pleased to expand our partnership with Takeda-Envoy and to push promising drug discovery efforts forward," Scott Forrest, Scripps' vice president for business development, said in a statement. "The high-throughput screening capability at Scripps Florida campus is in increasing demand--both from other research institutes and from industry."

The next phase of the Takeda-Envoy alliance also keeps some of the exciting discovery work Envoy and Scripps have been doing in Florida. At the time of its November buyout of Envoy, Takeda said that the majority of Jupiter, FL-based Envoy's research activities would move to Takeda's R&D hub in San Diego this month.

"Now we're moving into new therapeutic areas with different biological targets," Stephen Hitchcock, Envoy's senior VP of discovery, stated. "The first step is to find small molecules that can validate those targets--and Scripps Florida is amongst the very best places to do that."

- here's the release

Special Report: 20 Major Pharma-Academic Alliances in 2012