Takeda Pharmaceutical Company has announced new research collaborations in immuno-oncology (IO), an area of key strategic focus for the company. Through these collaborations, Takeda seeks to accelerate the discovery of next-generation cancer immunotherapies, including novel cell therapy approaches that may provide important opportunities for addressing the needs of patients with hard-to-treat cancers.

Takeda is currently aiming to diversify its business. Takeda is moving into the next generation cell-therapy space. Its diversification builds upon its three strategic pillars in oncology: haematologic malignancies, lung cancer and immuno-oncology. These collaborations with external partners and its newly established transitional cell therapy engine. Takeda aims to develop a rich pipeline of early stage assets as a result of these agreements.

Takeda currently has a strong oncology portfolio despite seeing generic competition beginning to reduce Velcade (bortezomib) revenues. Newer products such as Adcetris (brentuximab vedotin) and Ninlaro (ixazomib) are being seen to grow as revenue generators, indicating that the portfolio is set for further growth in the next five years despite the competition. The addition of assets from the recent collaborations will further increase the potential of this oncology segment. Takeda’s rapid pipeline expansion through the deals it has made will reduce development risk while providing novel technologies. The company’s collaboration activity will provide a healthy pipeline that will aid Takeda in reaching its goals of becoming a top 10 leader in the oncology market by 2025.

Takeda’s recent developments highlight an ambitious growth strategy. Takeda has established a new internal translational cell therapy engine with bioengineering, chemistry, manufacturing and control (CMC), clinical and translational expertise. The group aims to rapidly translate innovative and differentiated cell therapy concepts in to the clinic.

Takeda’s share price has been underperforming over 2018. Investor confidence has weakened towards the end of 2018 partly due to the decision to acquire Shire 2018, which was questioned by many shareholders due to a large take on of debt and high acquisition price for a company which had sold off its oncology business to Servier. The recent announcements of IO partnerships can be seen to have strengthened confidence, combined with the closing of the Shire deal. The company is now attempting to align its operations with its new global commercial strategy and is attempting to strengthen its position in oncology.

Takeda’s collaborations reflects a wider trend in the oncology market. Oncology research in FY19 will yield significant advancements in the field, which will be geared around IO developments; companies across the pharmaceutical industry are keen to capitalise on the revenues that these products have been seen to generate. The market for these products is expanding as possible uses of IO products are being developed. IO remains a necessary commercial investment in order to compete with bigger oncology players in the industry. Namely, Bristol-Myers Squibb, one of the biggest in the IO space is set to generate around USD11bn in oncology revenues in 2019, the majority of this will be from its blockbuster IO products Opdivo (nivolumab) and Yervoy (ipilimumab).