Updated: 05/09/2013 02:57

Japanese company Takeda acquires S'pore startup Inviragen for US$250m

Japanese company Takeda acquires S'pore startup Inviragen for US$250m

Singapore's push to develop a vaccine that prevents dengue infection has received a boost through a new partnership. 

A Singapore biopharmaceutical startup company - Inviragen, has been acquired by Japan's largest pharmaceutical company Takeda for US$250million. 

Inviragen is a privately held biopharmaceutical company set up by EDBI - the investment arm of Singapore's Economic Development Board (EDB), and investor Phillip Private Equity. 

Inviragen specialises in research and development of innovative vaccines for emerging infectious diseases, including dengue and hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD). 

Inviragen's vaccine DENVax to protect against dengue infection, is now in Phase 2 clinical testing. 

A vaccine designed to protect children from hand, foot and mouth disease has also completed Phase 1 clinical testing. 

And vaccines to protect against chikungunya and Japanese encephalitis, which affect millions of individuals in Asia, are in development. 

"The acquisition of Inviragen supports Takeda's overall research and development programs, long-term growth strategy and commitment to improve health through innovation and new technology," said Tadataka Yamada, M.D., Takeda's chief medical and scientific officer and member of the Takeda board of directors. 

"This acquisition combines Inviragen's expertise in viral vaccine research and development and our extensive worldwide network of preclinical and clinical collaborators with Takeda's resources, product development expertise, and global reach. Together we are well-positioned to bring these promising vaccine candidates to the market," said Dan Stinchcomb, Ph.D., Inviragen's chief executive officer. "Inviragen is pleased to become a part of a leading pharmaceutical company that is so strongly committed to developing vaccines that can improve public health worldwide." 

"Inviragen has made significant progress in developing key vaccines for emerging infectious diseases in Asia and worldwide, with active support from its international investor base," said Swee-Yeok Chu, CEO & President EDBI, a strategic investment firm headquartered in Singapore and a major Inviragen investor. "Takeda is an excellent partner to bring these important vaccines to the next stage of development." 

Alex Koo, the Director of Phillip Private Equity says, "The acquisition is a testimony to the value of the vaccines being developed by the company. Looking at the clinical data, DENVax has demonstrated good immunogenicity across all four serotypes. We are very pleased with the investment, but more importantly, it also demonstrates that there are good early stage technology companies based in Singapore with leading edge technology that will deliver attractive returns to investors. Making informed decisions and taking calculated risks can be rewarding." 

Takeda says to preserve continuity and build upon Inviragen's success, it will integrate the Inviragen team into Takeda's Vaccine Business Division. 

The deal is expected to close in the next few weeks. 

Takeda also expects several strategic benefits from the acquisition of Inviragen. 

These include enabling Takeda to develop a highly-promising vaccine against dengue, which the World Health Organization calls "the most important mosquito-borne viral disease in the world."; and to grow Takeda's product pipeline with vaccine candidates that protect against HFMD and chikungunya. 

 Dengue is the most important mosquito-borne viral illness in the world, and is one of four World Health Organization (WHO) future vaccine priorities. 

It is estimated that about 400 million people worldwide are infected by the dengue virus each year, of which nearly 100 million develop clinical illness. 

Approximately 500,000 people are hospitalised and 20,000, mostly children, die from severe complications such as hemorrhagic fever. 

Currently there are only symptomatic treatments available for dengue and dengue hemorrhagic fever, and the only means of prevention is through mosquito control.

HFMD epidemics occur annually throughout the Asia Pacific region, with millions of cases reported yearly since 2010. 

Chikungunya, which is a mosquito-transmitted virus, has produced epidemics in Africa, India, Asia and Europe. 

There are no specific treatments or cures for dengue, HFMD or chikungunya.

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