Takeda joins CAR-T competition with Noile-Immune alliance
With CAR-T therapies reaching the market, Japanese drugmaker Takeda has made a bid to get in on the action with a deal with biotech startup Noile-Immune.
The agreement gives Takeda a line into the work of Professor Koji Tamada at Yamaguchi University in Japan, who is a founder and chief scientific and medical officer at Tokyo-based Noile-Immune and spent 13 years in the U.S. working at the Mayo Clinic and Johns Hopkins University.
According to Noile-Immune’s website, the Japanese biotech is working on refining the CAR-T process to improve its efficacy in solid tumours, extending the technology from its current use in haematological cancers. Tamada’s research focuses on finding ways to improve the accumulation of persistence of T cells in tumours (key obstacles to using the approach in solid tumours) which has resulted in a Yamaguchi University patent that has been licensed by Noile-Immune.
Takeda says it is making an undisclosed technology access payment and an equity investment in Noile-Immune to claim, “exclusive options to obtain licensing rights for the development and commercialization of Noile-Immune’s pipeline and products resulting from this partnership.”
Takeda is joining the CAR-T throng at a pivotal time. On the plus side, Novartis has just claimed FDA approval for Kymriah (tisagenleucel) in acute lymphoblastic leukaemia—the first therapy in the class—and looks set to be joined shortly by Kite Pharma and its axicabtagene ciloleucel candidate, which has just been given a pass on an advisory committee meeting and is heading for an FDA verdict for diffuse large B-cell lymphoma.
On the other hand, while the efficacy of CAR-T has been almost miraculous for some patients, safety remains a tricky matter. Juno learned that to its cost after being forced to abandon its lead candidate JCAR015 earlier this year after patient deaths, while Cellectis has just revealed a fatality in its lead program that has prompted an FDA clinical hold.
Takeda’s head of cancer drug discovery, Chris Arendt, said the deal acknowledges “the enormous potential of next-generation CAR-T cell therapy technology to deliver transformative medicines in oncology.”
The move into CAR-T is a logical one for Takeda, which has already ventured into cell-based therapies with the formation of its T-CiRA program—based out of its Shonan Research Centre in Japan—which is focusing on developing stem cell therapies for heart failure, diabetes mellitus, neuro-psychiatric disorders and cancer, among other diseases.