Takeda bets on microbiome targets in GI push with Enterome deal

Osaka-based Takeda Pharmaceutical has taken its second effort in a month in gastrointestinal disorders, this time by a pact to study gene sequences of microbiomes to find new therapy pathways with France's Enterome Bioscience.

The deal, which included an undisclosed upfront payment by Takeda as well as a three-year funding obligation and milestones in discovery of candidates, burnishes the efforts of both companies in the space. Takeda will look to license any candidates on an exclusive global basis and carry them through clinical, regulatory and commercial development.

The day after the Takeda announcement, Enterome said it had inked a research agreement pact with Janssen Biotech, facilitated by Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) Innovation to look for novel targets and bioactive molecules from the gut microbiome.

Enterome is eligible for an upfront payment plus R&D funding from Janssen, which gets an exclusive license to further develop and commercialize candidates.

In December, Takeda signed a partnership agreement with Cour Pharmaceutical Development to develop therapies against celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder that affects patients who cannot tolerate gluten, showing its broad interest in the gastrointestinal disorder field.

That agreement saw Takeda pay upfront fees and promise milestone payments that will lead to an exclusive option for Takeda to acquire a global license to the TIMP-GLIA program after the completion of a Phase IIa clinical trial.

Takeda CEO Christophe Weber

As well, earlier in 2015, French-born Takeda CEO Christophe Weber highlighted solid sales of Entyvio for ulcerative colitis, which launched in the United States last year. Just this week, Takeda bought Baxalta's ($BXLT) U.S.-located biologics facility in the state of Minnesota which makes Entyvio along with other biologic products.

In the case of Enterome Bioscience, the companies are looking at how to target the wealth of bacteria organisms in the human gut to find therapies for inflammatory bowel diseases and motility disorders.

"In partnering with scientists at Enterome, who perform cutting-edge research into microbiome-derived agents, Takeda is able to explore this exciting science and bring innovative therapies forward," Gareth Hicks, head of gastroenterology drug discovery for Takeda, said in the press release.

The France-based firm will rely on a proprietary metagenomic platform to look determine if candidates from small molecules to biologics derived from the microbiomes can work, according to a press release.

The hopes for studying gut-based bacteria to find new therapies cuts across a wide swathe of potential applications, including for obesity, another Takeda focus with Contrave, as well as cardiovascular disease.

Enterome has received additional backing from big pharma both directly and indirectly.

Late last year, Novartis ($NVS) joined anew with Paris-based Seventure Partners' biotech fund which has invested in microbiome players including Enterome as well as others. And in 2014, AbbVie ($ABBV) partnered with Enterome on a non-invasive biomarker for Crohn's disease.

- here's the release from Takeda
- here's the release from Enterome on the Janssen Biotech deal (PDF)