Takeda Keeps On Truckin’ With Obesity Drug Research

This year’s additions to the pile of setbacks in the obesity drug arena are enough to make anybody wonder whether big pharma companies will continue to invest in the field (was it already two years ago that Pfizer exited obesity research entirely?!). But news today of a pact between Takeda and Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute suggests the Japanese drug maker is in it for the long haul.

Takeda’s agreement with Florida Hospital and Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute creates a partnership to evaluate potential new obesity drug targets.

Today’s deal is the latest in a string of obesity-related investments for Takeda. Haystack readers may recall that Takeda is Orexigen’s partner for the development of Contrave, the weight-loss drug that is awaiting a decision from FDA in the wake of a thumbs-up from the agency’s advisory panel. The company also has a stake in peptides from Amylin Pharmaceuticals as potential obesity treatments, and it is conducting clinical development in Japan for Alizyme’s lipase blocker cetilistat, a next-generation pill to Xenical (orlistat), the drug sold over-the-counter as alli.

Takeda’s interest in obesity makes sense given its strong history with type 2 diabetes drugs, a class with close ties to the obesity area. A quick look at Takeda’s pipeline is a whirlwind tour of diabetes drug targets, like glucokinase activators and dipeptidyl peptidase-4 inhibitors. The company has also discovered a protein, TGR5, that could be a target for drugs that mimic gastric bypass surgery‘s ability to control diabetes. And they are behind Actos, the well-known diabetes medication which shares its mechanism of action with Avandia. Unlike Avandia, Actos remains on the market, although FDA is currently investigating its safety.

Will Takeda’s strategy pay off? Time will tell- beginning with FDA’s official decision on Contrave by the end of January.

Author: Carmen Drahl

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2 Comments

  1. So there’s obviously a HUGE demand for something in this realm, right? But there’s obviously HUGE regulatory concerns; I mean, a good enough, safe enough drug will be practically put in the drinking water. (I seem to recall leanings in that direction with the statins in the 2002 to 2005 era.)

    There’s a saying in the stock market: “the market can stay irrational longer than you can stay solvent.” I guess that with obesity med-chem, reality can stay intractable longer than companies can stay solvent.

  2. True that, CJ. But from a basic research perspective, it’s probably not hard to convince yourself that the potential obesity drug target *you’re* working on isn’t going to have the problems that the other ones do. This came to mind again for me this week as I watched multiple companies have their antibodies that block nerve growth factor (potential pain drugs) put on hold— I wonder how surprising it was that bone necrosis seemed to be happening for some people in the clinicial trials. Were there any warning signs in animals?