Magazine Article | May 30, 2013

4 Questions For An Oncology Big Pharma CSO

Source: Life Science Leader

By Life Science Leader

1. Is there a particular strategy/process that you follow regarding the types of compounds you pursue or which therapeutics to focus on?

Our approach to developing the next generation of cancer therapeutics is based upon specific areas of biology where the company has developed internal strength. These areas include hormonal agents and their receptors, the ubiquitin and ubiquitin-like pathways regulating protein homeostasis, and cellular metabolism. The pursuit of unique drug targets in these key areas of science coupled with a balanced set of targets in signal transduction pathways represent the principal components believed necessary for building a strong and diverse pipeline of future drugs. An additional emerging area of interest is in the application of targeted antibody drug conjugates (ADCs), which offer specificity and the potential for diverse chemical payloads.

The overarching imperatives guiding the research vision begin with an understanding of unmet medical needs within the changing competitive landscape and commercial environment. The research strategy then focuses on disease pathways and drug-target classes where the research organization has knowledge, experience, and prioritization of resources for foundational areas of scientific and commercial leadership.

2. Has that strategy/process changed in recent years or at least since the Millennium acquisition?

The fundamental strategy has not changed since the Millennium acquisition. However, the range of biology expertise areas was expanded through the existing Takeda oncology research organizations in Japan and in California. The global oncology marketing strategy and market preparation teams are led by Millennium with participation from all regions. Plus, we are constantly engaged in exchanging employees on both sides to help offer an indigenous perspective in key functional areas.

3. In general, has the pharma industry increased its focus on cancer-related drugs in recent years? If so, why?

One consequence of more people living longer is that age-related disease classes such as cancer and neurodegenerative diseases become more prevalent. Takeda’s decision to focus on this therapeutic area is, therefore, based on the strong growth projections for the global oncology market driven by continued unmet medical need. We are driven by an increasing demand for these medicines to treat those unmet needs within various forms of cancer and are influenced by rising healthcare spending in developing countries like China and Russia and within areas of South America. Plus, a global expansion of the world’s middle class, most of whom have increased access to better and more sophisticated healthcare in other emerging markets — a key focus for Takeda — will continue to stimulate interest and growth for cancer medicines. Many of the new cancer drugs recently approved and in development are aimed at cancers with specific genetic variations, so the drugs can be targeted to patients who are most likely to benefit, which certainly has the potential to impact their cost.

4. How do you make the big decisions? For instance, how do you know which drugs to pursue?

At Millennium, our goal is to transform cancer therapy from tissue histology- based diagnosis and empirical treatment course to molecular genetics-based diagnosis and longterm treatment options. Our R&D is driven by biology and biomarker discovery while focusing on pathways of combination therapies based on individual patient profiles of an evolving disease.

This activity requires characterization of a patient’s current cancer in the clinic. In recent years, Millennium has focused increasingly on its evolving translational research program and the close collaboration between discovery and development. Our translational medicine department in clinical is linked to discovery and nonclinical development through ongoing research and acts as a bridge to clinical research implementation. The collaboration is maintained from early discovery through clinical proofof- concept, and serves as a crossfunctional strategy linking teams and sharing technology platforms.