Fierce Pharma Asia—Takeda's Anima mRNA translation pact, China digital health incubator; Daiichi's COVID-19 vaccine

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Takeda, Anima Biotech and Daiichi Sankyo made our news this week. (Google)

Takeda penned a potentially billion-dollar deal with Anima Biotech to work on mRNA translation modulators for neurological diseases. The Japanese pharma also launched a digital health incubator in Shanghai. Fellow Japanese drugmaker Daiichi Sankyo has ushered its mRNA COVID-19 vaccine into a phase 1/2 trial for initial safety and immunogenicity analysis. And more.

1. Takeda bags mRNA translation modulators in $120M Anima deal

Takeda has teamed up with Anima Biotech to develop three mRNA translation modulators for genetically defined neurological diseases. The Japanese pharma will pay up to about $120 million in upfront and preclinical research milestone payments and up to $1.1 billion in potential clinical and commercial milestones down the line.

2. Takeda launches China incubator with a focus on digital health (Shanghai Daily)

Amid an in-house digital push, Takeda has opened TakedaSpark, an incubator in Shanghai focused on digital health. The platform will support projects in disease screening and diagnosis, digital therapy and digital analytics for healthcare marketing. It hopes to pick less than 10 projects for funding by the end of 2021.

3. Daiichi takes mRNA COVID-19 vaccine into clinic as Japanese R&D belatedly fires up

Daiichi Sankyo has kicked off a phase 1/2 of an mRNA vaccine against COVID-19, even as it’s helping AstraZeneca produce its coronavirus shot for the Japanese market. The study will enroll 152 healthy adults, including elderly people, to evaluate safety and immunogenicity of the candidate, dubbed DS-5670.

4. BioNTech, Fosun’s COVID vaccination suspended in Hong Kong, Macau over packaging flaws (CNBC)

Hong Kong and Macau halted vaccination with BioNTech and local partner Fosun Pharma’s COVID-19 vaccine. The pause came after BioNTech noted some vial packaging flaws in one of the two batches supplied to the region. The two firms have launched a probe to identify the root cause of the problem.

5. Merck, Eisai detail Keytruda and Lenvima's endometrial cancer win in confirmatory study

Merck and Eisai may soon turn the first indication of their combination therapy of Keytruda and Lenvima into a full approval, thanks to a phase 3 win. In the confirmatory Keynote-775 trial, the combo cut the risk of death by 38% over chemotherapy in patients with previously treated endometrial cancer regardless of their tumor’s mismatch repair status.

6. Eisai plans drug delivery center to support biologics expansion

Meanwhile, Eisai has started construction of a new building to support the company’s expansion into injectables. Eisai’s portfolio mainly covers oral formulations, but it has established a pipeline that features 12 injectables. The new Eisai Medicine Innovation Technology Solutions will handle formulation research and manufacturing of injectables once construction completes by the end of September 2022.

7. J&J's allergy-fighting contact lens nets first approval in Japan, allowing wearers to skip eye drops

Japan has doled out a global-first nod to Johnson & Johnson’s Acuvue Theravision lenses with ketotifen. It’s a daily disposable contact lens that contains the same active ingredient used in eye drops to offer relief from eye allergies.

8. EpimAb reels in $120M to propel 3 clinical-stage bispecifics, including dual checkpoint inhibitor

China’s EpimAb Biotherapeutics has raised $120 million in a series C round. The money will be used to accelerate three bispecific programs, including its lead candidate, EMB-01, which targets EGFR and cMET. It also has a PD-1xLAG-3 dual checkpoint inhibitor and a T-cell engager for CD3 and BCMA in clinical trials.

9. Brii collects $155M to accelerate infectious disease, CNS pipeline (release)

Brii Biosciences reeled in $155 million in a series C led by Invesco Developing Markets Fund. The money will help advance the company’s infectious diseases pipeline with candidates for hepatitis B, COVID-19, multidrug-resistant Gram-negative bacterial infections, HIV, plus a central nervous system disease program.