By Alex Keown
Takeda Pharmaceutical is jumping into the $40 billion market for nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) and other diseases of the liver with a $470+ million investment into Virginia-based HemoShear Therapeutics, LLC.
The Japanese pharma powerhouse is investing in HemoShear’s REVEAL-Tx disease modeling platform. Takeda said the HemoShear platform is able to provide valuable insights into pathophysiological pathways by replicating human disease with great accuracy. The REVEAL-Tx platform was recently recognized at the American Association for the Study of Liver Disease annual meeting. HemoShear’s NASH model received four Presidential Awards based on publications demonstrating the platform’s ability to replicate many clinical observations from clinical stage drugs, the company said.
“The ability to study pathophysiology in a human multi-cell system is crucial for our understanding of disease and how to develop best-in-class therapies,” Gareth Hicks, head of the GI Drug Discovery Unit at Takeda, said in a statement. “We see the HemoShear platform as an integral component in our overall liver disease strategy that focuses on a ‘human first’ approach to the identification and validation of novel targets in NASH and other liver diseases.”
Under the terms of the agreement, HemoShear will receive upfront payments and R&D funding that could be worth more than $470 million depending on milestones and potential royalties. Takeda will have access to the REVEAL-Tx platform to discover and develop best-in-class therapeutics for specific liver diseases. Takeda did not provide any specifics as to which diseases of the liver, other than NASH, it might target initially.
Now is a good time though for Takeda to dive into the NASH market. The prevalence of NASH is increasing worldwide in part due to the increase of obesity and diabetes diagnoses. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, NASH affects 2 to 5 percent of people in the U.S. There are currently no specific treatments aside from weight loss, increased physical activity and avoiding alcohol and unnecessary medications. NASH is projected to become the leading indication for liver transplant by 2020.
Takeda joins other pharma giants such as Allergan and Gilead Sciences in racing to develop an approved treatment. Last year, Allergan went on a buying spree to acquire multiple NASH developmental products through deals with companies like Akarna Therapeutics Ltd. and Tobira Therapeutics.
Jim Powers, chief executive officer of HemoShear, said Takeda has seen the value and potential of the REVEAL-Tx platform. He said the Japanese company has recognized the platform’s ability to “identify and validate” therapeutic targets in liver disease.
“Our ability to replicate NASH and other liver diseases for drug discovery, coupled with Takeda’s expertise in developing and commercializing therapeutics, can yield safer and more effective therapies for NASH and potentially other liver diseases, Powers said in a statement.