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Takeda unveils new Boston R&D manufacturing center for cell therapy pipeline push

September 16, 2020
Life sciences

Japanese drugmaker Takeda has trumpeted its plan in recent years to cut billions of dollars in costs and pivot around oncology and rare diseases. A key part of that strategy is Takeda’s next-gen cell therapies, and the company is now doubling down to get those products to market.

Takeda has opened a 24,000-square-foot R&D manufacturing center in Boston as the Japanese drugmaker works to flesh out a bustling cell therapy pipeline focused immediately on immuno-oncology, Takeda said Tuesday.

The newest facility, part of Takeda’s pivot to Boston for its U.S. operations, will handle clinical development for three ongoing pipeline programs and two other projects expected to enter clinical development by the end of 2021, the drugmaker said.

The slate of projects currently in development includes TAK-007, a phase 1/2 chimeric antigen receptor-directed natural killer (CAR-NK) cell therapy that Takeda is studying to treat non-Hodgkin lymphoma and chronic lymphocytic leukemia.

Takeda also two CAR-T therapies in the pipe: TAK-940, a Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center-partnered therapy to treat relapsed/refractory B-cell cancers; and TAK-102, a solid-tumor hunter developed alongside Noile-Immune Biotech.

While Takeda’s focus will initially be on its I-O pipeline, the drugmaker could eventually expand its efforts out to cell therapies beyond cancer, the company said.

Takeda’s big investment in its cell therapy manufacturing—a notoriously expensive and complicated process—comes as the company consolidates its U.S. operations in the Boston area.

In December, Takeda emptied out its former Chicago-area headquarters in order to move the roughly 1,000 employees there over to the Boston HQ. The Japanese drugmaker’s plans followed its 2017 acquisition of Shire, which had an established presence in Cambridge and Lexington.

In March, Takeda sold its old Deerfield, Illinois site to Horizon Therapeutics for a cool $115 million.

That key Boston location will put Takeda in the center of an “innovative and fast-paced” biotech hub that will allow Takeda to take its place at the forefront of the “breathtaking” work in the cell therapy space, according to Chris Arendt, Takeda’s oncology therapeutic area head.

With work-from-home orders still in place due to COVID-19, Takeda will have employees working on an adjusted schedule in the short term with no set date on when its staff will fully return.

“What we’re doing now is maintaining principles of social distancing,” Stefan Wildt, Takeda’s head of pharmaceutical sciences and translational engine, said. ‘We have shifts, and we ensure that we stay at a certain capacity to keep on running the business but not putting our scientists at risk.”

As Takeda becomes more entrenched in Boston, the drugmaker has significantly pared back its operations and portfolio around the world, committing to cut around $2 billion in costs per year by the end of 2021.

In March, CFO Costa Saroukos told analysts that plan was well on track, and mostly at the expense of employees: The company figures it will eventually cut 6% to 7% of the combined Takeda-Shire workforce, or around 3,600 workers.

The company’s been working with vendors to shave costs as well. Takeda gathered 40 of its largest suppliers for a summit in Boston in June 2019 and both confirmed about $200 million worth of potential cost reductions and gained some $200 million of extra cash-flow room by extending payment terms, the drugmaker said.

By: Kyle Blankenship

Source: Fierce Pharma

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