Takeda rides Denali’s ATV

Denali deal reflects Takeda’s growing commitment to biologics for CNS disorders

In its deal with Denali, Takeda has not only boosted its CNS pipeline, but also gained access to a delivery technology that could open the door to a host of CNS targets only druggable with biologics. As the pharma continues to ramp up the therapeutic area, the Denali system could provide a gateway technology for other assets acquired or grown in house.

Since the arrival of CSO and CMO Andrew Plump in 2015, Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd. has been increasingly looking externally for modalities that can complement its expertise in small molecules.

Plump told BioCentury in a conversation in June that among the pharma’s three core therapeutic areas -- CNS, cancer and gastrointestinal disorders -- “the one that is most challenging to diversify from on a modality basis is CNS, because it’s just hard to get into the brain.”

The technology from Denali Therapeutics Inc. offered a way for the pharma to unlock a trove of neurology targets, according to Daniel Curran, head of Takeda’s Center for External Innovation. “Recently some targets have emerged that require biologics to inhibit or activate,” said Curran.

“We could build abilities in-house, but that would take too long. We went into the Denali deal explicitly to try and understand this ATV transport system,” he added.

Denali’s ATV (antibody transport vehicle) system puts a new spin on the “Trojan horse” strategy that Denali CEO Ryan Watts helped develop when he was director of neuroscience at the Genentech Inc. unit of Roche.

Both systems target the transferrin receptor on the luminal surfaces of vascular endothelial cells.

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