Takeda has decided to become a global player in vaccines challenging some of the biggest names out there like Sanofi, Merck, GSK, Pfizer and Novartis. They've hired Tadataka Yamada, GSK's former R&D chairman to spearhead the effort. He previously also worked at the Bill Gates' foundation and gained a global view of the vaccine world in that position.
The strategy at Takeda's new unit is to advance vaccines that combat bugs for which there are no vaccines. Last month they bought LigoCyte ($60 M) and its lead vaccine aimed at treating norovirus gastroenteritis. Approximately 21 million Americans are afflicted by this disease annually and there is currently no vaccine. Takeda notes that vaccines take a long time to develop compared to many pharmaceuticals but have a higher rate of success than pharma products at each clinical stage. See Fierce Biotech.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation made another equity investment ($13 M) in a startup biotech company, Visterra, aiming at a universal preventive as well as therapeutic approach to influenza. Much of that money is being earmarked to take the preclinical program for VIS410--a broad-spectrum antibody -- into the clinic in 2014. VIS410 has the potential to work against any strain of seasonal or pandemic influenza.
Visterra is taking a unique antibody approach to flu. Its scientists identified a networked cluster of amino acids on the hemagluttinin protein, which the flu virus uses to enter cells and infect the host. That target gives them a potential key to treating or preventing all flu strains, coming up with a drug that the virus won't be able to mutate away from--a key problem with today's vaccines. And Visterra emphasized that this antibody approach is not a vaccine. This is the type of novel appproach that the Gate's Foundation likes to fund. See Fierce Biotech.
Posted by Bruce Lehr Nov 9th 2012.