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Takeda, Maverick Therapeutics Enter $125M Cancer Therapy Partnership

Xconomy San Francisco — 

Takeda Pharmaceutical, aiming to bolster its cancer drug pipeline, has signed on Maverick Therapeutics to a $125 million partnership for developing new immunotherapy treatments.

The funding for Brisbane, CA-based Maverick includes an upfront option, a $23 million Series B investment, and cash for research and development. At the end of the five-year deal, Takeda has the exclusive right to acquire Maverick for an undisclosed price.

It’s the second cancer deal announced this week by Osaka, Japan-based Takeda. On Monday, Takeda revealed an agreement to buy Cambridge, MA-based Ariad Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: ARIA), a company that has been developing cancer drugs for more than 25 years.

Maverick has a much shorter history, having formed just last year. The biotech startup is researching ways to redirect the soldiers of the immune system, the T cells, so that they target tumors. But the antigens targeted by these redirected T cells are also expressed on healthy tissue, so redirection therapy can lead to serious side effects. Maverick says that its antibodies are designed to be inactive when they’re administered to the patient, but they become active in the presence of tumors. The company’s founders include Patrick Baeuerle, a cancer immunologist whose work focuses on T-cell redirection. Maverick did not say which cancers it would target first.

Until the partnership announced today, Maverick had been backed solely by venture capital firm MPM Capital. The VC firm’s Bioventures 2014 fund, as well as the UBS Oncology Impact Fund, which MPM also manages, joined Takeda in the $23 million financing for Maverick. Takeda made the deal through Millennium Pharmaceuticals, the Cambridge-based oncology unit of the company.

Maverick was spun out of Harpoon Therapeutics, another MPM Capital portfolio company that is also researching T cell redirection therapy. Hans-Peter Gerber, whose experience includes executive roles in Pfizer’s (NYSE: PFE) oncology research unit, will lead Maverick as the company’s president and chief scientific officer. Immediately prior to joining Maverick, Gerber had been chief scientific officer of Harpoon.

Photo by Flickr user Anthony Quintano via a Creative Commons license.