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Envoy’s Team to Join Takeda’s Local Forces

TAKEDA CALIFORNIA INC.

CEO: Keith Wilson, president and chief scientific officer.

Revenue: Not applicable. Takeda California is a drug discovery research division of Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd.

No. of local employees: 200.

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Headquarters: La Jolla.

Year founded: Takeda San Diego was formed in 2005 following Takeda’s purchase of local biotechnology company Syrrx. Takeda San Diego was renamed Takeda California in January 2012.

Company description: Takeda California designs innovative new medicines to treat cancer, and various metabolic and immune disorders.

Key factors for success: A strong commitment to innovation in drug discovery. Community involvement.

La Jolla-based Takeda California Inc., with its connection to Japan’s largest pharmaceutical company, should be able to take the recently acquired Envoy Therapeutics’ technology to the next level.

In a deal worth $140 million, Envoy Therapeutics of Jupiter, Fla., has been acquired by Takeda America Holdings through a transaction finalized Nov. 13. All of Envoy Therapeutics’ 22 staff will be joining Takeda California’s 200-strong workforce in San Diego by April 1.

Takeda California is a wholly owned subsidiary of Takeda America Holdings, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Osaka, Japan-based Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd., with some 30,000 employees in more than 70 countries.

Takeda California is known for combining protein X-ray crystallography, small molecule, antibody, and antibody drug-conjugate capabilities to efficiently generate potential new medicines for treating cancer, inflammatory diseases and metabolic diseases. The company’s drugs in various stages of development would be used to treat type 2 diabetes, lymphoma, obesity, cancers and arthritis.

Envoy has also been focused on finding new drugs that are effective and minimize side effects. The company’s proprietary bacTRAP technology combines genetic engineering with molecular biology techniques for labeling and extracting the protein-making components of specific types of cells.

Envoy Therapeutics CEO Brad Margus said the bacTRAP technology enables the ribonucleic acid inside the specific cells in the body to be tagged, allowing researchers to see which proteins are produced by certain cell types. The technology could be used to make a drug that can act on a protein that’s selective to one cell type, he said.

The technology is especially powerful in the brain where many hundreds of cell types are intermingled but Margus said that it can also be applied to any cell type in the body.

Thinking Outside the Brain

“The brain is a compelling place to start with our technology,” Margus said. “As part of a huge, global pharmaceutical company like Takeda, we can apply the technology outside the brain — to lung tissue, cancer cells, the immune system, arteries. We’ve demonstrated it’s possible but we’re a little biotech company.”

Margus said Takeda and Envoy have been collaborating for the past two years, with a focus on researching cell types that are important to schizophrenia in the brain. One of Envoy’s two lead programs is focused on addressing cognitive prompts that people with schizophrenia have, he said. The bacTRAP technology was used to find a protein that was expressed specifically in a cell type that plays a significant role in schizophrenia or cognitive problems of schizophrenia, he said.

“Even if (a patient) takes medications, people have trouble thinking clearly so it’s hard to function in everyday life,” he said. “There’s really an unmet medical need in treating cognitive problems that people with schizophrenia have and our drug looks promising for that.”

Another of Envoy’s promising drugs would be used to treat Parkinson’s disease without the side effects of unwanted body movements, or tremors.

Margus said both programs have been shown to be effective in animal studies and are set for human clinical trials in 2013. He said Takeda California will be able to help take Envoy through the next steps, providing assistance with drug safety, dosing, formulation and designing the clinical trials.

Big Backing

“It’s going to be great because we can draw on all their experience and expertise and resources to bring the drugs to market faster,” Margus said.

Consolidated net sales for the Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. over the six-month period ended Sept. 30, 2012, were 786.9 billion yen, reflecting an increase of 84.4 billion yen, compared with the same period of the previous year. During the same period, net income was reported at 119.8 billion yen, reflecting a decrease of 15.9 billion yen, compared with the same period of the previous year. In U.S. dollars, net sales for the period translate to approximately $9.44 billion with net income of $1.43 billion.

In addition to a history of drug discovery collaboration, Takeda’s corporate venture arm, Takeda Ventures Inc. of Palo Alto, participated in Envoy’s series A financing in October 2009. This was done in accordance with TVI’s mission to nurture external innovation and help Takeda build on its heritage of innovative drug discovery, according to a company statement.

The company says that the addition of Envoy’s revolutionary technology to the San Diego region increases its capabilities as a top contender for biotech and drug discovery research for the scientific community.

Keith Wilson, president and chief scientific officer for Takeda California, said the 22 staff being transferred from Florida to San Diego will consist of scientists, a mixture of chemists, biologists and bacTRAP specialists.

“They’ll have the opportunity to access extra resources as part of a global pharmaceutical company that they couldn’t access as a standalone company,” Wilson said, explaining that Takeda can provide financial support for such things as animal studies and scaling up compounds. “Takeda can bring additional resources that they were largely missing in their small company and advance their pipeline to clinical trials more efficiently.”

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