Takeda superheroes of 'IBD Unmasked' return in continuing comic book saga

Takeda's newest IBD comic book superhero installment continues the drive for empathy and awareness.

Nonprofit executive Ethan Brewster can suddenly create body doubles of himself, while nurse Jiang Goh’s new superpower allows her to instantly heal injuries.

If it sounds like a Marvel superhero comic plot, that’s because it is. But Marvel’s latest custom-created storyline for Takeda Pharmaceuticals’ “The Unbeatables” comic book is also more than just an action-packed yarn. It’s the next chapter in Takeda’s inflammatory bowel disease awareness campaign, "IBD Unmasked," to drive awareness, empathy and support for patients and caregivers.

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Last summer, Takeda bowed its partnership with Marvel—along with a patient advisory panel—for the first superhero character, Samarium, aka IBD-suffering forensic scientist Ian Diaz, who can morph his skin into impenetrable magnetic body armor. Takeda later introduced a new global chapter and team of four more IBD superheroes and caregivers, each with their own superpowers and story. The latest chapter, which debuted on World IBD Day last week, is another global content effort that explores two of the characters' stories—Brewster’s Switchback and Goh’s Luminaria—more in-depth.

“Patients have found it to be empowering. It’s something they can to talk to each other about and also use to talk to their support systems,” Elissa Johnsen, Takeda’s head of product and pipeline communications, said in an interview. “The physician community has also really embraced the concept from a creative perspective and finds it similarly empowering.”

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The upcoming focus of the campaign will be to introduce it in more global markets and roll out the work locally in a way that’s appropriate and customized to each market, Johnsen said. Two new chapters are in the works and will be released sometime this summer. Social media efforts, including posts at Twitter handle @IBDUnmasked, will continue as well.

Takeda markets IBD biologic Entyvio, which faces competition in a crowded IBD space with Crohn's and ulcerative colitis treatments including AbbVie's Humira, Amgen's Enbrel, and Johnson & Johnson's Remicade and follow-up Simponi.

Last year, Takeda had been looking to expand its gastroenterology portfolio with a buyout of Valeant's Salix, but talks fell through in November.