Takeda eyes vaccine business growth amid COVID-19 partnerships and dengue progress, CEO says

Takeda is helping Moderna and Novavax make their COVID-19 vaccines available in Japan. With those new products and about a decade’s worth of progress on its dengue shot under its belt, Takeda's CEO sees vaccines becoming a bigger part of the drugmaker’s business going forward.

A vaccine business, “when established, has a very long life,” Takeda CEO Christophe Weber said Tuesday during Reuters Events’ Pharma Japan 2021 conference.

“There is no generic of vaccines, for example. So it's a different type of lifecycle, but it can be a very good business if you bring innovation,” Weber said, as quoted by the news service.

After Takeda's $59 billion megamerger with Shire, the drug giant has placed an added emphasis on its vaccine group. And as part of its pandemic response, Takeda is currently responsible for distributing Moderna’s mRNA COVID-19 vaccine in Japan.

But that rollout hit a setback recently after contaminants showed up in distributed vials. The impurities, which the companies have traced to a production line at a contract manufacturer in Spain, prompted inoculation halts and recall of 1.63 million doses.

Such problems can happen in drug manufacturing, Weber said, dismissing the suggestion that it was the result of hastiness in making the COVID shots. Moderna and Takeda have stated that the foreign particles aren’t expected to cause safety risks.

RELATED: The curious case of Eohilia: Takeda drug hit with mysterious FDA delay as company leans on launches for growth

Meanwhile, Takeda is playing a bigger role for Novavax’s COVID vaccine program in Japan. Known as NVX-CoV2373, the adjuvanted protein-based COVID shot is under the Japanese pharma’s care through local clinical development, manufacturing, regulatory submission and marketing.

Just recently, the Japanese government agreed to purchase 150 million doses of the investigational shot. A Japanese approval is expected this year, according to Takeda’s last update in late July.

But Takeda’s vaccine work predated those latest COVID programs. The company's dengue vaccine TAK-003 is the closest Takeda pipeline vaccine to market, with a decision expected from EU regulators next year. The company also expects to launch the vaccine in some populous dengue-endemic countries in Southeast Asia and South America, as well as the U.S., in its fiscal year 2022.

RELATED: Takeda allies with Frazier to spin out late-phase norovirus vaccine

In the dengue vaccine field, Sanofi’s Dengvaxia is largely sidelined after the French pharma found it could put previously uninfected people at a higher risk of severe dengue if they become infected. TAK-003, by comparison, showed strong efficacy at reducing dengue illness with no evidence of disease enhancement in seronegative individuals.

As Takeda builds production capacity to make 50 million doses of TAK-003 per year, the company projects the vaccine could reach up to $1.6 billion in peak sales, according to a presentation in December.

Besides TAK-003, Takeda is working on a Zika vaccine dubbed TAK-426 with a potential launch in the 2025 to 2026 timeframe. The company, in collaboration with Frazier Healthcare Partners, recently spun off its norovirus vaccine TAK-214 to a new firm called HilleVax.