Blam! Takeda’s superhero adventures are back with four new characters to take on IBD

Superhero and IBD sufferer Samarium is back for Takeda’s IBD disease awareness campaign, and this time he brought friends. The IBD-Unmasked campaign welcomed four new Marvel-created superheroes--two who also suffer from inflammatory bowel disease and two caregivers.

The new IBD superhero squad “The Unbeatables” was introduced at London’s Comic Con by Takeda and Marvel comic book writer Fabian Nicieza, who drew the new heroes and accompanying comic book. The first chapter of the book is available now in print and online outside the U.S.,while the finished comic book will be ready in time for World IBD Day in May. Takeda is working on U.S. online access to the new characters and chapter and should be available soon.

It was important to add caregivers to the mix this time not only because patients told Takeda how important their circle of support is, but also because the campaign is meant to target caregivers, as well; they're often searching for information and taking active roles in helping IBD patients manage their conditions, Elissa Johnsen, senior director, head of product and pipeline communications at Takeda, told FiercePharma.

“One important element is that we worked with IBD patients to develop these characters to make sure we were presenting this in a way that was not only fair and appropriate to their patient experience, but also empowering and motivating,” Johnsen said.

The original IBD Unmasked campaign, launched in July, was built around the main character Samarium, whose magnetic and impenetrable full-body armor super power protected him from danger, but not his “secret” inflammatory bowel disease. It was the first time Marvel has worked with a pharma company to produce a custom comic book and characters for a health condition.

Takeda, which markets IBD biologic Entyvio, is looking to expand its gastroenterology portfolio, and is reportedly in advanced talks to purchase Valeant’s Salix and its IBS-D drug Xifaxan.

“IBD patients most often get diagnosed with this disease in the prime of their lives--when they’re trying to go to college, form important relationships and make career choices,” Johnsen said. “So we wanted to create something that felt like a source of strength and empowerment in some of those critical moments, and represent triumphs over some of those day-to-day struggles. That’s how we landed on superheroes.”

The new IBD super heroes are Switchback, a Crohn’s disease suffering man who can project duplicate versions of himself to be in two places at once; Rubblerouser, the brother of a Crohn’s patient who can create concussive bursts of pressure that can crumble concrete; Datawave, a female ulcerative colitis patient who is cybernetically linked to the internet and can surf and process vast volumes of data instantly; and Luminaria, a female nurse who can project wide-range auras of emotion.

In another recent gastroenterology marketing effort, Takeda launched IBData, a wearables digital tech program, to help patients track symptoms and disease data.