Takeda unveils new vaccine business headed by Gates Foundation exec

Japan's Takeda has announced the company plans to launch a vaccine development business unit at the beginning of 2012. The new division will be headed up by Dr. Rajeev Venkayya, who's currently employed as the director of vaccine delivery in the Global Health Program at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Prior to his work with the Gates Foundation, Venkayya assisted the White House with preparations for biological threats and helped roll out the U.S. program for influenza readiness.

Takeda already has an established vaccine presence in Japan, where the company is testing vaccines for the treatment of Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), polio, HPV and several types of influenza. The new unit will take on development of Takeda's pediatric vaccines, as well as in-license new products and technologies. The company says it also plans to pursue deals that will allow it expand its vaccine business on a global scale. Earlier this year, Takeda purchased Nycomed for $13.7 billion; in a release, the Japanese company said it would leverage it infrastructure it gained in that buyout to access Europe and emerging markets.

"While the global vaccine market continues to expand as emerging countries grow, the short supply of affordable vaccines still poses a serious problem. In Japan, the issue of how we should go about ensuring supply of vaccines particularly against emerging infectious threats represents an urgent challenge," said Takeda CMO Dr. Tadataka Yamada. "Going forward, pharmaceutical manufacturers will be expected to play a critical role in addressing these issues and under the leadership of Dr. Venkayya, Takeda has taken a step forward in fulfilling its responsibility as a leader in the industry."

- here's Takeda's release