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It wasn’t about selecting a Canadian company, it’s that a Canadian company was the best-in-class partner for us in terms of level of innovation and quality of the team. We’re excited that we get to leverage all of that expertise that has grown up in Ontario.

Integrity, fairness, honesty, and perseverance – four lofty principles on which any company would want to conduct its business practices. But for global pharma giant, Takeda, not only did these values shape its foundation over 230 years ago in Osaka, Japan, they continue to be the driving force behind the multinational’s current-day global operations, its partnerships in 80 countries, and its commitment to delivering transformative medicines to patients all across the world.

Takeda’s approach to advancing the research, development and commercialization of medicines across its therapeutic focus areas is simple – they don’t reinvent the wheel.

Dr. Christopher Arendt, Oncology Therapeutic Area Unit Head, Takeda wearing glasses a suit with no tie, with arms crossed.
Dr. Christopher Arendt, Oncology Therapeutic Area Unit Head, Takeda

“While we have an incredibly resourceful and talented group of drug developers, we recognize that across the world, across the biotechs, the academics, there’s exponentially more innovation happening,” says Dr. Christopher Arendt, Head of Takeda’s Oncology Therapeutic Area Unit. “We felt that the right model for the future of Takeda to stay in that pioneering position would be to find those innovators and figure out how we can work with them to successfully accelerate bringing ground-breaking medicines to patients.”

It’s no wonder then why Takeda Canada was officially established in 2009, right here in the province – Ontario is home to one of the most unique and collaborative innovation ecosystems on the planet where business, academia and government work together to drive revolutionary ideas to market.

Investment in Ontario-based Turnstone Biologics

Takeda’s culture of sharing their expertise and heft as a global pharma leader with cutting-edge innovators has one overarching goal: to improve the quality of life for patients worldwide by developing and delivering life-changing treatments. Takeda Canada’s decision to invest in and collaborate with Ottawa-based Turnstone Biologics is looking to do just that for cancer patients.

Takeda and Turnstone are pursuing a cutting-edge modality known as oncolytic viruses, which are engineered to target and kill cancer cells, while triggering a response from the body’s immune system to help attack those cancer cells.

Dr. Arendt explains, “Dr. John Bell’s [Turnstone scientific co-founder] reputation as a scientist-founder is among the highest in the world in terms of expertise in oncolytic viruses. We want to bring our drug development expertise to the table and understand how we can complement this incredibly scientifically-deep team, a team that has years and years of experience, to bring transformative medicines forward.”

“What excites us so much about this opportunity with Turnstone and to bring an oncolytic virus into a cancer patient therapy setting is that the virus is programmed to home in on that tumour micro-environment, start the attack and release a payload comprised of a number of factors designed to potentiate the immune system.”

Takeda has discovered Ontario’s number one advantage in their partnership with Turnstone – its people. Talent abounds in Ontario – with 70% of adults possessing a post-secondary education, and with our welcoming approach to immigration, companies in Ontario benefit from quick and predictable access to highly-skilled talent.

Says Dr. Arendt, “Having trained in Canada as a PhD Immunologist funded by Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), I could not be more proud that Takeda’s deep diligence in assessing the oncolytic virus space led to prioritizing a Canadian biotech as our top partner of choice.”

Chemistry at work

Adding in Takeda’s own drug developers, scientists, and broader commercial team to the mix has enabled this oncolytic virus program to move forward in the development pipeline with necessary regulatory filings and imminent clinical testing and development. But Takeda knows that it takes a certain element of chemistry between the organizations’ teams to drive success.

“What we found in Turnstone is a true thought partner,” says Dr. Arendt. “It’s a group that recognizes their strengths that we admire deeply, and they also recognize areas where an industrial partner can help them build competency and offer important contributions.”

It’s chemistry that is paying off. In addition to this first oncolytic virus program, Takeda and Turnstone have four other programs in development in the oncology space, leveraging unique combinations of payloads to address diverse kinds of tumours.

Life-changing R&D thrives in Ontario

In Ontario, small and medium-sized manufacturers can save up to 50% on their after-tax R&D expenditures. We also have some of the lowest corporate tax rates in North America. Tie in advantages like lower costs to conduct clinical trials, access to our 23 research hospitals and more than a dozen research partnership programs and grants, Takeda, along with other top global pharmaceutical companies find the people, the support and the innovation needed to remain on top of this highly competitive sector.

A scientist wearing safety goggles holding an implement performs scientific research in a laboratory setting.
A scientist performs research at a Takeda facility

Partnerships like the one forged with Ontario-based Turnstone will drive the future of Takeda, advancements in the broader global sphere of pharmaceuticals and, most importantly to Takeda, the chance to dramatically improve the lives of patients. As such, the hunt for new partners and new opportunities is a continuous process.

For Dr. Arendt, one thing will continue to be a constant theme at Takeda: “We will never stop looking for innovation. For us, a sustainable pipeline is such a critical part of the future of the organization. We want to constantly pull programs in to the organization through partnering across the world with academic labs, clinical settings and, of course, biotechs.”

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