Takeda teams up with Novavax to introduce its coronavirus vaccine in Japan

Mount Fuji Japan with cherry blossoms
Through a licensing deal, Takeda will help develop, manufacture and sell Novavax's COVID-19 vaccine, NVX‑CoV2373, in Japan. (Goryu/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images)

Takeda now has a vaccine project in its fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, alongside repurposing existing drugs and developing a plasma-based therapy to treat the deadly disease.

The Japanese pharma reached a deal with Novavax to develop, manufacture and sell the U.S. biotech’s coronavirus vaccine candidate, NVX-CoV2373, in Japan.

While the exact monetary terms were not disclosed, the pair said Japan’s health authorities will help fund technology transfer, new infrastructure and scale-up of manufacturing. The goal is to build up capacity to produce 250 million doses of the shot a year.

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“Takeda’s leading position in Japan, technical expertise, regulatory know-how and manufacturing capacity make the company an ideal partner to further expand the global availability of NVX‑CoV2373,” Novavax CEO Stanley Erck said in a statement.

NVX-CoV2373's technology differs from some other leading programs. It uses genetic information to duplicate the novel coronavirus’ spike protein and combines the proteins into nanoparticles. To further boost the vaccine’s strength, it adds a proprietary adjuvant called Matrix-M.

RELATED: Novavax’s COVID-19 vaccine looks promising in early data

Data from the phase 1 portion of a phase 1/2 study showed two consecutive doses of the recombinant shot triggered neutralizing antibodies at levels numerically higher than those seen in patients who had recovered from COVID-19.

A month ago, the Maryland biotech snared a $1.6 billion financial commitment from the U.S. government’s Operation Warp Speed to support the vaccine’s late-stage testing and manufacturing. In return, the company pledged to deliver 100 million doses beginning as early as late 2020, with potentially more to come.

Under the Takeda deal, Novavax will transfer the technology necessary for Takeda to manufacture the vaccine antigen and will supply the Matrix-M adjuvant. Takeda will be responsible for submitting the shot for regulatory approval and producing the final product for distribution in Japan.

Plasma-based therapies, including vaccines, make up one of Takeda's five key focus areas. The company’s working on shots against dengue (TAK-003), norovirus (TAK-214), Zika (TAK-426) and Chikungunya (TAK-507).

RELATED: COVID-19 close-up: Takeda's Morabito on the science behind plasma-based treatments

During the COVID-19 crisis, Takeda formed a partnership with several world-leading plasma companies to develop an unbranded immunoglobulin therapy that's made by concentrating antibodies from convalescent plasma.

It also joined a who’s who of the pharma industry in the COVID R&D Alliance focused on finding treatments for the disease. As part of that initiative, the company just teamed up with AbbVie and Amgen in a joint study, testing its hereditary angioedema therapy Firazyr as a means of controlling the dangerous immune system reactions seen in serious COVID-19 cases.

Like many other countries, Japan’s been busy locking up supplies of different COVID-19 vaccines. Pfizer and BioNTech just agreed to offer the Asian country 120 million doses of their mRNA shot, BNT162b2. Announcement of the Novavax-Takeda pact comes just as Japan secured a 120 million-dose supply of AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford’s AZD1222. And Johnson & Johnson was said to be in talks with the Japanese government for allocations of its candidate.

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