Japanese Drugmaker Takeda Seeks New Chinese Partners Amid Flourishing Innovation
Zhang Yushuo | Zhang Yangyang
DATE:  Apr 03 2024
/ SOURCE:  Yicai

(Yicai) April 3 -- Japanese pharmaceutical giant Takeda is actively exploring diversified cooperation opportunities and enhancing its research and development capabilities in China to take full advantage of the thriving innovative environment in the country.

Takeda yesterday held the 2024 Takeda R&D China Innovation Forum in Shanghai, themed “Connecting Innovation for a Collaborative Ecosystem”. The forum, which had many of the company’s leaders participating, also attracted numerous Chinese biotech firms and insiders from various sectors.

Takeda focuses on three core therapeutic areas, which are gastroenterology and inflammation, oncology plus cell therapy, and neuroscience, Chris Arendt, chief scientific officer and head of research at Takeda.

"So, when we are looking for partnerships in an ecosystem like China, we are looking for what could represent breakthroughs in those therapeutic areas and strong teams that have an interest to partner with our research labs, capabilities, and R&D in ways that allow us to help to accelerate," Arendt noted.

"We hope to harness China's speed to support global R&D efforts, working together to explore scientific frontiers and accelerate the pace of global innovation," Arendt added.

Yicai also had an interview with Any Plump, president of research and development at Takeda, who joined the forum during his first visit to China in the past four years since the Covid-19 pandemic.

"I don't want to say it's night and day, but it's wow in terms of what China has done in terms of really embracing innovation, and this doesn't usually happen in four years,” Plump noted.

Chinese companies that were working predominantly on imitation drugs or improvement drugs four or five years ago are now working on novel platforms, targets, and treatments, Plump said, adding that this is remarkable.

"The credibility that we are seeing in the management teams and venture investors makes me believe that this is going to turn into a really top-notch and highly competitive ecosystem in drug development," Plump pointed out.

When asked about what made Chinese companies more competitive and more suitable partners, Plump mentioned the sophistication in the investment, the quality of the management teams, the access to technical and scientific expertise, the uniquely competitive landscape, the large number of scientists, the cost of making medicine, and the speed of the workforce.

"Takeda is firmly committed to scientific innovation and the discovery, development, and delivery of medicines that have the potential to significantly enhance or transform the lives of patients," said Plump. "We have six drugs in late-stage clinical trials worldwide, and since 2018, we have successfully obtained approvals for 14 innovative drugs in China.

"Our goal is to be here frequently to establish our presence and focus on deep partnerships with Chinese biotech firms to really build on top of our model in one to three years,” Plump added.

Since 2017, China has been one of Takeda's four key areas in terms of R&D, along with Japan, the United States, and Europe, said Wang Lin, head of Takeda Development Center Asia. China has evolved rapidly from "catching up" to "synchronizing" to finally "leadership" in the R&D field.

Takeda has achieved 100% synchronization in late-stage trials, with approximately 50% participation in early-stage trials, Wang noted. "We hope China can join earlier- and later-stage clinical trials, thus accelerating global drug development."

The amount of collaboration and training in China has become very globalized, as there is a lot of talent with global experience returning or working with global partners, Arendt said, adding that this brings a greater level of synchronization to the equation.

"Nurturing these relationships and exchanges will be really beneficial to the Chinese ecosystem," Arendt noted.

External partnerships are crucial for Chinese biotech firms to access expertise, fill gaps in capabilities, monetize assets, and accelerate innovation, said Stella Shi, chief executive officer and co-founder of Rona Therapeutics, a Shanghai-based pioneering ribonucleic acid therapeutics platform company.

Last year, Takeda secured the rights and interest for Chinese biomedicine firm Hutchmed's Fruquintinib Capsules outside China for USD1.1 billion. It also joined hands with Belief BioMed to advance gene therapy for hemophilia B in China.

Editor: Futura Costaglione

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Keywords:   biotech,ecosystem,Takeda