SINGAPORE--Japan's Takeda Pharmaceutical opened an emerging markets headquarters in the gleaming new research hub of Biopolis on Feb. 25 in the wealthy city-state as it looks to bring a Phase III dengue candidate through trials successfully and challenge Sanofi's ($SNY) lead in the space.
The offices will be the Emerging Markets Business Unit headquarters, Takeda Development Center Asia and the Vaccine Business Unit. A brief launch event was attended by COO Christophe Weber and President of Emerging Markets Giles Platford, who both emphasized the importance of the vaccines business to Takeda and Singapore's central role as a clinical and research hub.
"This facility is crucial to our emerging markets work and to our vaccine business with a dengue candidate for Phase III trials," Platford said. Sanofi successfully completed Phase III trials in Asia and Latin America last year that put it on track to gain regulatory approval this year with a manufacturing unit already geared up in France and furious lobbying efforts already underway with governments in Southeast Asia where the virus is endemic to launch mass vaccination campaigns.
At heart for any vaccine against dengue, public health officials say, is efficacy against the most prevalent of the four serotypes as well as the ability to cover all serotypes.
Takeda bought U.S.-based Inviragen in May 2013 for up to $250 million subject to clinical milestones, with $35 million upfront for its lead candidate, DENVax, a four-strain recombinant viral vaccine for the prevention of dengue infection. The vaccine has completed Phase II trials.
In addition to DENVax, Inviragen is working on a vaccine to protect against hand, foot and mouth disease caused by enterovirus 71 (EV71) and has also developed a recombinant vaccine to protect against chikungunya, a viral disease spread by mosquitoes, which is currently in preclinical studies.
Inviragen had deep regional ties, having merged with Singapore-based SingVax in 2009 and worked with Vietnam's VABIOTECH on a Japanese encephalitis vaccine.
Singapore in the past three years has attracted firms such as Amgen ($AMGN), AbbVie ($ABBV) and Novartis ($NVS) to build state-of-the-art manufacturing operations as well as bolstered its ability to host biomedical research and development in drugs and devices through the Singapore Economic Development Board.
Both Weber and Platford had previously lived in Singapore.