Regenerative medicine partnerships get attention of Japanese drugmakers

Takeda Pharmaceuticals and other Japanese drugmakers are latching on to regenerative medicine and stem cell research as a future growth market and are quickly developing partnerships and acquiring overseas ventures to tap the market.

Takeda CEO Christophe Weber

Takeda announced this week it will spend $164 million on a joint research project with Kyoto University's Center for iPS Cell Research and Application (CiRA) that will research using induced pluripotent stem cells to develop treatments in 6 fields that include cancer, heart failure and diabetes, according to a report by Nikkei News.

Takeda said it will bring 60 researchers to the project in Kanagawa prefecture and will expand the project to 10 fields and 100 researchers in 2016 with the goal of having new therapies enter clinical trials within 5 years, the report said.

Japan's Sumitomo Dainippon Pharma is also said to be jumping on the bandwagon with another CiRA partnership that includes Hitachi and which will be working on stem cell treatments for Parkinson's disease that will focus on "mass-produced" cells rather than patient-specific cells.

Fujifilm has also joined the fray with its $307 million acquisition of startup Cellular Dynamics. Astellas Pharma is buying U.S. biotech Ocata Therapeutics for $379 million to get access to its stem cell treatment for age-related macular degeneration.

All of these companies are hoping to get a slice of a regenerative medicine market that is anticipated to grow to $8 billion by 2020, according to the country's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.

- here's the report from the Nikkei News