Takeda Jumps Into the Land of CAR-T R&D With New Tie-Up

Takeda Jumps Into the Land of CAR-T R&D With New Tie-Up September 5, 2017
By Mark Terry, BioSpace.com Breaking News Staff

Osaka, Japan-based Takeda Pharmaceutical Company inked a collaboration deal with Tokyo-based biotech startup Noile-Immune Biotech to develop CAR-T therapies.

CAR-T therapies are an immuno-oncology treatment that typically draws T-cells from a cancer patient, engineers them to specifically attack the patient’s cancer cells, and then are reinfused into the patient. Just last week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first CAR-T therapy, Novartis AG ’s Kymriah.

Noile-Immune Biotech claims to be working on next-generation CAR-T approaches developed by Koji Tamada at Yamaguchi University. Noile-Immune licensed his platform technology. Tamada was the head of the basic research department for the cancer immunotherapy program at Maryland State University’s Cancer Center, and performed cloning and functionality analysis of PD-L1 with Lieping Chen.

No financial details have been released. The collaboration is expected to accelerate research and development of CAR-T therapy, and Takeda will provide resources, a technology access payment, and an equity investment in the company. Takeda will then have an exclusive option to license rights from the pipeline.

“This technology forms the basis for developing potentially transformational treatments for solid tumors,” said Hidenobu Ishizaki president of Noile-Immune in a statement. “The platform was developed by our founder, director, and CSMO, Professor Koji Tamada at the Department of Immunology at Yamaguchi University Graduate School of Medicine. We believe our collaboration with Takeda is a significant step towards rapidly delivering therapies that use this technology to cancer patients.”

This announcement also follows news that Paris-based Cellectis ’ two Phase I CAR-T trials were halted after its first patient died from a reaction to the therapy, UCART123. Early work with CAR-T often showed severe and sometimes deadly side effects, primarily Cytokine Release Syndrome (CRS), which is basically a massive overreaction on the part of the patient’s immune system. Juno Therapeutics also shuttered one of its CAR-T programs over CRS problems. Novartis and Kite Pharma have developed protocols and approaches that seem to minimize CRS and other adverse events.

The primary difference between Cellectis’ approach, however, was off-the-shelf CAR-T. Rather than specifically engineering the T-cells for the individual patient, it was engineered based on donor cells. The idea is it would be faster, cheaper and less labor-intensive than the current approaches.

It’s not clear what advances Takeda and Noile-Immune Biotech will leverage. The company indicates it will focus on solid tumors.

“We recognize the enormous potential of next-generation CAR-T cell therapy technology to deliver transformative medicines in oncology, one of our core therapeutic areas,” said Chris Arendt, head of Takeda’s Oncology Drug Discovery Unit, in a statement. “This collaboration is another example of our commitment to invest in highly innovative technologies and to work with top external scientific and clinical teams as we seek to deliver therapies that address the needs of patients with cancer. We are especially excited that our collaboration with the outstanding team at Noile-Immune will be located at our cutting-edge Shonan Research Center in Japan, allowing our Takeda scientists to work side-by-side with the Noile-Immune team to accelerate the advancement of innovative cellular immunotherapies to the clinic.”

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