Takeda Pharmaceutical will integrate Univercells' continuous integrated manufacturing methods into its vaccine production platform, in a partnership designed to manufacture affordable vaccines for developing countries.
Through its strategic venture arm, Takeda Ventures, the pharma giant closed an equity investment of €3 million ($3.3 million) in Univercells, the Belgian biomanufacturing technologies provider said today.
Founded in 2013, under its slogan “Biologics for All”, Univercells focuses on high-density low-cost manufacturing of biologics. The company says its methods can reduce the sales price of biologics by 75%, and the expense of manufacturing them by as much as 90%: “We integrate unit operations (a benchmark in many industries for decades), which dramatically drives cost down. And we design manufacturing facilities ‘around’ optimized integrated processes,” Univercells states on its website.
“Equal access to health around the globe is critical and we believe this comes through decentralized production, which is the biggest challenge in this new era of biomanufacturing,” Univercells CTO Jose Castillo said in a statement.
Rajeev Venkayya, M.D., president of Takeda’s Vaccine Business Unit added that “Takeda is committed to making its vaccines available to people in need, wherever they may live. Reducing production costs while maintaining the highest levels of quality is an important part of our access strategy, and manufacturing science plays a critical role.”
Takeda’s partnership with Univercells is the pharma’s second in nearly two months focused on vaccine production technologies.
On August 26, Takeda won access for an undisclosed price to Nanotherapeutics’ Vero cell technology platform, a cell culture-based platform for vaccine production that the Florida biopharma acquired from Baxalta. The deal gave Takeda rights to commercialize pandemic and seasonal influenza vaccine products based on the Vero cell technology platform, in unspecified regions outside of Japan.
Takeda’s partnerships with Nanotherapeutics and Univercells are in line with the commitment expressed by the pharma in recent years to expand its vaccine business: “Takeda will continue to work through the vaccine business to contribute to better global public health, disease prevention, and improved access to healthcare,” the company stated in its Annual Report 2014, detailing its performance in the fiscal year that ended March 31, 2015.
Takeda established its Vaccine Business Division in 2012 and has since expanded its vaccine pipeline by acquiring LigoCyte Pharmaceuticals for $60 million-plus in 2012, and acquiring Inviragen for up to $250 million a year later.
In February of this year, Takeda said in a statement it will focus its vaccine development efforts on “programs that address significant unmet needs in Japan and around the globe, including norovirus, dengue, influenza, Haemophilus Influenzae type b (Hib), and Enterovirus 71 (hand, foot and mouth disease).”
The statement was issued following Takeda’s decision to discontinue a Phase II development program in Japan for TAK-361S, a four-component, combination Diptheria-Tetanus-acellular Pertussis (DTaP) and Sabin inactivated poliovirus vaccine (sIPV). The company cited a shift within the vaccine program toward meeting higher-impact public health needs as well as current availability of safe and effective DTaP-sIPV vaccines in Japan.