On a deal spree, Takeda partners up with Nektar on a slate of cancer R&D combo studies

Steve Doberstein

Takeda continues its pipeline revamp with a new deal to collaborate with Nektar Therapeutics on a slate of new combo studies using its lead immuno-oncology candidate, NKTR-214.

The deal calls for the two companies to share the costs of research and contribute the drugs to the partnership, much like Nektar’s earlier deal with Bristol-Myers Squibb. Takeda has been busily outlicensing, inlicensing and buying products to remake its pipeline, with a big focus on boosting the cancer R&D work in their Boston hub.

This latest deal follows a tie-up between Nektar $NKTR and Bristol-Myers Squibb last fall — which came without any big biobuck package tied to it. The work at Nektar centers around a growing understanding of the role of the IL-2 pathway, CSO Steve Doberstein told me at the time. If you hit the wrong IL-2 receptor, he says, you’ll wind up triggering regulatory T cells, which suppress the immune system. Hit the CD122 receptors, though, and you’ll amp up a T cell attack.

And everything in immuno-oncology these days is about combos and future cocktails that amplify therapies’ impact on cancer. The first focus with Takeda will be on preclinical tumor models of lymphoma, melanoma and colorectal cancer.

Phil Rowlands

“We see significant potential in Nektar’s unique CD122-biased agonist in particular the ability to stimulate tumor-killing T-cells in the tumor micro-environment itself,” said Phil Rowlands, head of the Oncology Therapeutic Area Unit for Takeda. “Research partnerships are an important part of helping us advance our aspiration of curing cancer. Working together with Nektar will enable us to identify combinations with exciting preclinical activity and help us achieve Takeda’s goal of developing innovative, targeted therapies to treat people with cancer.”

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