Seattle biotech startup PvP Biologics, which developed a promising treatment for people who can’t digest gluten, was acquired by Japanese pharmaceutical Takeda for up to $330 million in late February.
Since the acquisition, Takeda has taken over all clinical work, as well as chemistry, manufacturing and control activities. It also laid off PVP’s entire staff, said Ingrid Swanson Pultz, co-founder and chief scientific officer of PvP, who was one of the few retained part-time contractors helping Takeda with the transition.
PvP, which spun out of the University of Washington, landed $35 million from Takeda three years ago to complete the first phase of its clinical trial, at which point Takeda had the option to purchase the startup.
The trial included testing the KumaMax enzyme that PvP developed to see if it could break down gluten in the stomach and act as a treatment for celiac disease. Those with the immune disorder, which affects 1 in 100 people worldwide, cannot eat gluten because it will damage their small intestine. The investigational treatment aimed to prevent healthy patients from removing gluten from their diets.
The drug was named TAK-062, or Kuma062. Takeda acquired PvP following the end of the first trial.
“Many people living with celiac disease manage their symptoms by following a gluten-free diet, but there is no treatment for those who continue to experience severe symptoms,” Asit Parikh, head of the Gastroenterology Therapeutic Area Unit at Takeda, said in a statement. “PvP Biologics’ work demonstrated that TAK-062 is a highly targeted therapy that could change the standard of care in celiac disease.”
Takeda is planning to undergo phase two of clinical trials.
A number of institutions around the world are developing drugs to treat the disease, including North Carolina company Innovate Biopharmaceuticals. So far, the FDA hasn’t approved any treatments for the immune disorder.
PVP began as a UW student project in 2011 after it won a competition for synthetic biology. Although the students left, Pultz, who was their advisor, decided to study KumaMax further.
Pultz worked with co-founders David Baker and Justin Siegel to improve the student-made enzyme. Baker is the head of the Institute for Protein Design at the UW, a lab that has spun out several startups over the years, including Arzeda, Cyrus Biotechnology, A-Alpha Bio and most recently Neoleukin Therapeutics. The company was also led by CEO Adam Simpson, currently the CEO at Icosvax.
If TAK-062 is ever sold commercially, the students who filed the original intellectual property will receive royalties.
Takeda is also currently working on TAK-888, a potential plasma-based therapy for treating COVID-19.