September 3, 2021
At Takeda, we’re constantly looking for scientific breakthroughs to deliver transformative therapies to patients around the world. Through partnerships, collaboration and research, we’re fostering an ecosystem of innovation to translate cutting-edge science into impactful health solutions. In Japan, we’ve established Shonan Health Innovation Park (Shonan iPark) to do just that. T-CiRA is an example of the ongoing collaboration and innovation being conducted at Shonan iPark.
Established in 2015, T-CiRA is a 10-year joint research program by Takeda and the Center for iPS Cell Research and Application (CiRA) at Kyoto University. The program aims to accelerate research for the practical application of induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) technology in the development of new drugs and cellular therapies for the treatment of neurological disorders, cancer and intractable muscular disorders.
Recently, Takeda invested in a seed financing round to help launch a new company called Orizuru Therapeutics Inc. (OZTx), a research and development-driven company based at Shonan iPark. OZTx will focus on advancing the development of iPSC therapies starting with two initial programs discovered through the T-CiRA research program focused on severe heart failure and type I diabetes. OZTx will also continue to advance research into the application of iPSC technologies by sharing how the distinguished technologies support drug discovery and help develop infrastructure for more expansive research in regenerative medicine.
“We’re honored to take such innovative programs from T-CiRA and bring them into OZTx,” said Dr. Kenji Nonaka, President of OZTx. “We appreciate Takeda for being an initial investor. And as we continue to work closely with Takeda at Shonan iPark, we’re confident that we’ll be able to develop regenerative medicines for patients.”
By establishing OZTx as a new, standalone company derived from T-CiRA, Takeda can remain focused on research efforts in its core therapeutic areas of focus while supporting Orizuru as an investor to enable the continued development of Orizuru’s two promising cardiovascular and diabetes programs. With this structure, Takeda can build on the research outcomes achieved at T-CiRA and work more effectively toward our goal of bringing medical innovation and iPS-cell-technology-powered therapeutic opportunities to patients and society.
"Shonan iPark is developing a biotech ecosystem where industry and academia are collaborating on research,” said Dr. Toshio Fujimoto, General Manager of Shonan iPark. “As a result, many innovative new companies are emerging one after another and Orizuru Therapeutics is the best example of that.”
iPSC are cells that have been reprogrammed into an embryonic state, which gives them the potential to be turned into any cell type. This is done by introducing a small number of genes into ordinary human somatic cells – like skin or blood cells – that transforms them into iPSC. At this stage, these cells can be engineered to differentiate into any type of cell in the body – such as neuron, liver or heart cells – which then proliferate indefinitely. This offers the potential to create an indefinite bank of healthy cells necessary for research and medical treatment. iPSC have potential clinical applications across therapeutic areas, including in oncology as ‘off-the-shelf’ allogeneic cell therapies, an area where Takeda is conducting cutting-edge research, and regenerative medicine, including cell transplantation therapy involving transplantation of tissue and mini-organ cells created by differentiation from iPSC.
"One of the key features of this iPSC technology is to provide various types of functional cells to control or manipulate a disease state with necessary genetic modifications, which will lead to transformative ‘off-the-shelf’ cell-gene therapies,” said Dr. Yasushi Kajii, Head of T-CiRA Discovery at Takeda. “Combining the iPSC technology with advanced gene therapy technologies could bring real innovative solutions to patients suffering from intractable diseases in the near future."
OZTx was established to bring some of the research achievements in the T-CiRA program to patients in a timely and reliable manner after considering all potential options. OZTx represents a new approach to fulfill the commitment of Takeda and CiRA to patients. Takeda R&D will continue to be committed to creating innovations and bringing groundbreaking new drugs to patients as a global R&D-driven company with a tradition of technologies and a passion for science.