Takeda Oncology Invests in Talent, Pipeline Growth Despite Turbulent Market

Pictured: Takeda building/company courtesy

Pictured: Takeda building/company courtesy

In spite of a tumultuous economy, many life science companies have started the year off strong, expanding their pipelines and aiding organizations with fewer resources through partnerships.

In a recent report published by BDO, 43% of life sciences CFOs surveyed stated they plan to pursue a collaboration agreement to bring in cash in 2023. 

One partnership that made headlines this year was spearheaded by Takeda. In January, Takeda inked an exclusive licensing agreement with Hutchmed Limited to develop its colorectal cancer (CRC) candidate, fruquintinib, beyond mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau. 

Takeda dropped $400 million up-front and agreed to up to $730 million more in regulatory, developmental and commercial milestones, making the deal potentially worth over $1 billion.

Investing in Innovation

Pallavi Garg is the head of Global Oncology Products and Pipeline Strategy at Takeda. She said the deal with Hutchmed is just one example of the partnerships Takeda Oncology has in store.

These deals complement Takeda’s strong in-house discovery and development capabilities, she said, and are a key driver for the oncology organization’s main focus– innovation. 

According to Garg, this focus on innovation can’t solely occur at the therapeutic level; it is heavily reinforced by the efforts the company has made to invest in talent and strategically build out its team. 

“We have learned over the years that when we create innovative products, we also need a very highly talented group of individuals and leaders that can then take these medicines… and make them available to as many patients as possible across the globe,” Garg said. 

To help the oncology organization reach its goals in the coming year, Garg is currently expanding her team.

Securing the most qualified candidates, though never easy, has become more complex of late. Hiring managers across industries have reported that offering competitive compensation and benefits is insufficient to secure the best talent; the culture of an organization has become just as important.

According to BioSpace’s How to Attract and Retain Talent Report, 61% of respondents reported that company culture would push them to apply for a job.

Garg said she has seen this in her own recruitment efforts. 

“[Culture] has been important in the past, but I feel like it is now on a completely different level,” Garg said. “People want that deeper sense of purpose and connection with the organization that they're joining.” 

Takeda’s culture has been its biggest advantage in hiring top talent. Garg said it’s the reason she decided to join Takeda herself, particularly when coupled with the company's longevity and patient-centric approach. In true circular fashion, that culture is both built and supplemented by hiring the right people. 

She emphasized that the oncology organization’s success is largely due to the unique qualities she looks for in candidates – learning agility, a strong ability to collaborate and open-mindedness –paired with diversity in background, experience and expertise across her teams. 

“When you create teams with such diverse perspectives… that's when you're able to really push the boundaries of innovation,” Garg said. “It's the cultural element and the inclusiveness that ensures that when you do have this diverse talent, they feel comfortable speaking up and contributing, and as we say, bringing their whole selves into the organization to make an impact.”

Highlighting Data and Digital

Garg added that there is one other skill set that she prioritizes in candidates: digital savviness. 

Now more than ever, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) drive innovation across the industry. 

A report from GlobalData predicted that the pharma industry will spend over $3 billion on AI by 2025. And in oncology, AI and ML have reportedly led to earlier cancer detection and more targeted treatment options. 

This focus on what Garg called “data and digital” is not only for those applying to tech-based roles, Garg said, but all candidates. 

“I feel data and digital is becoming pervasive, and will only continue to be more pervasive,” she said. “I believe that every role in the organization in the future will have a data and digital element.”

Garg said this focus on partnerships, hiring initiatives and culture all lead back to her team’s ultimate goal: helping patients. 

“At the end of the day, it's all about the science,” she said. “It's all about being able to develop these innovative medicines and take them to patients.”

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