When Take­da un­veiled its trans­la­tion­al cell ther­a­py en­gine ear­ly last year, the Japan­ese phar­ma made it clear the crew, un­der No­var­tis vet Ste­fan Wildt, is go­ing all the way: clin­i­cal ex­per­tise, bio­engi­neer­ing chops, world-class col­lab­o­ra­tions, plus chem­istry, man­u­fac­tur­ing and con­trol.

“In that ear­ly space, hav­ing it sit­u­at­ed in prox­im­i­ty to our teams is quite pow­er­ful,” Chris Arendt, head of the on­col­o­gy ther­a­peu­tic area unit, told End­points News. “When you think about it, the process de­fines very much the med­i­cine and the cell ther­a­py space”

De­signed to pro­duce clin­i­cal-grade ma­te­r­i­al from dis­cov­ery through piv­otal Phase IIb tri­als, the site will sup­port five on­go­ing pacts. They in­clude pluripo­tent stem cell work with Ky­oto Uni­ver­si­ty No­bel lau­re­ate Shinya Ya­mana­ka, gam­ma delta T cell re­search with Adri­an Hay­day and his biotech, ar­mored CAR-Ts with Ko­ji Tama­da at Noile-Im­mune Biotech, next-gen CARs with Memo­r­i­al Sloan Ket­ter­ing’s Michel Sade­lain, and fi­nal­ly CAR-NK with Katy Rez­vani at MD An­der­son.

Takeda opens cell therapy manufacturing facility — tucked right in its Boston R&D hubChris Arendt

With three pro­grams now in the clin­ic, Take­da is now pick­ing two more to test in hu­mans in 2021, Arendt said. While each re­search part­ner­ship has tak­en on its own be­spoke ap­proach to man­u­fac­tur­ing up to now, the new fa­cil­i­ty will pro­vide a cen­tral spot to lock down the process de­vel­op­ment as close to the fi­nal prod­uct as pos­si­ble.

At the fore­front are TAK-007, an al­lo­gene­ic CD19-tar­get­ed CAR-NK be­ing test­ed in Phase I/II for re­lapsed or re­frac­to­ry non-Hodgkin’s lym­phoma; TAK-940, 19(T2)28z1xx CAR-T cells fea­tur­ing a next-gen sig­nal­ing do­main from MSK; and TAK-102, a cy­tokine and chemokine ar­mored CAR-T di­rect­ed at GPC3-ex­press­ing pre­vi­ous­ly treat­ed sol­id tu­mors. The lat­ter two are in first-in-hu­man tri­als.

Hav­ing a ded­i­cat­ed fa­cil­i­ty scales the op­er­a­tions up so that the team can si­mul­ta­ne­ous­ly ad­vance mul­ti­ple pro­grams, he added.

Be­fore the pan­dem­ic sucked out all the oxy­gen in the room, the boom­ing cell ther­a­py mar­ket’s de­mand for phys­i­cal in­fra­struc­ture cap­tured con­sid­er­able at­ten­tion. Gilead’s Kite con­struct­ed its own vi­ral vec­tor man­u­fac­tur­ing cen­ter in or­der to leave “no stone un­turned. Con­tract man­u­fac­tur­ers like Catal­ent were snap­ping up space, and even Deer­field got in­to the game with a splashy, $1.1 bil­lion en­trance.

Takeda opens cell therapy manufacturing facility — tucked right in its Boston R&D hubSte­fan Wildt

The way he’s built the team — now grown to well over 150 sci­en­tists — the learn­ings from any one pro­gram can be quick­ly ap­plied to the whole port­fo­lio, Wildt not­ed.

“We want­ed to place the en­gine team at that sweet spot be­tween late-stage dis­cov­ery and rapid­ly putting for­ward in­no­v­a­tive ideas and con­cepts in­to clin­i­cal trans­la­tion,” he said. “It was just a con­cept a few years ago. And now we can part­ner with hos­pi­tals and pa­tients and re­al­ly see hope­ful­ly we can be suc­cess­ful on their be­half.”

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