Home Lymphoma Kite development head Ken Takeshita jumps to Daiichi Sankyo amid oncology push...

Kite development head Ken Takeshita jumps to Daiichi Sankyo amid oncology push – Endpoints News


Months af­ter lead­ing Kite Phar­ma to a land­mark OK and es­tab­lish­ing the first-ever com­mer­cial CAR-T port­fo­lio, glob­al de­vel­op­ment head Ken Takeshi­ta vague­ly an­nounced he was leav­ing the helm for an­oth­er op­por­tu­ni­ty. Now we know what he’s been up to.

Ju­nichi Ko­ga

Takeshi­ta is jump­ing over to Dai­ichi Sankyo on April 1, where he’ll lead the com­pa­ny’s push to be­come an es­tab­lished on­col­o­gy play­er as glob­al head of R&D. He’s fill­ing the shoes of Ju­nichi Ko­ga, who’s re­tir­ing af­ter 12 years at the com­pa­ny.

“We are thrilled to wel­come Ken in­to the Dai­ichi Sankyo fam­i­ly to lead glob­al R&D in our con­tin­ued trans­for­ma­tion in­to a glob­al on­col­o­gy leader and to pur­sue world-class sci­ence and tech­nol­o­gy,” CEO Sunao Man­abe said in a state­ment. “Ken brings re­mark­able depth and breadth of ex­pe­ri­ence to our or­ga­ni­za­tion – from first-hand pa­tient care to over­see­ing more than 20 reg­is­tra­tional tri­als lead­ing to many reg­u­la­to­ry ap­provals.”

Takeshi­ta spent the last two years at Kite, steer­ing the com­pa­ny to an ap­proval for Tecar­tus in re­lapsed or re­frac­to­ry man­tle cell lym­phoma back in Ju­ly. He’s pass­ing the torch to Take­da vet Frank Neu­mann, just as the FDA is set to make a de­ci­sion on Kite’s sup­ple­men­tal BLA for three-year-old Yescar­ta in fol­lic­u­lar lym­phoma (FL) and mar­gin­al zone lym­phoma (MZL).

Man­abe has laid out big plans to so­lid­i­fy Dai­ichi Sankyo’s place in the can­cer space by 2025, with the main fo­cus on their bil­lion-dol­lar ADC En­her­tu. The As­traZeneca-part­nered drug, which was al­ready ap­proved in the US for third-line metasta­t­ic breast can­cer pa­tients, snagged a sec­ond ap­proval in gas­tric can­cer last month.

“DS-8201 (En­her­tu) and our ADC tech­nol­o­gy are cur­rent­ly vis­i­ble, but they are on­ly the tip of the ice­berg when it comes to Dai­ichi Sankyo’s R&D ca­pa­bil­i­ties with sci­ence and tech­nol­o­gy run­ning through­out them,” Man­abe wrote in the com­pa­ny’s 2019 val­ue re­port. The CEO named gene ther­a­py, next-gen AD­Cs and bis­pe­cif­ic an­ti­bod­ies as po­ten­tial ar­eas of growth.

Dai­ichi jumped in­to the gene ther­a­py space less than a year ago, when it dropped $200 mil­lion to ac­cess Ul­tragenyx’s man­u­fac­tur­ing tech­nol­o­gy. For $125 mil­lion in cash and a $75 mil­lion eq­ui­ty in­vest­ment, Dai­ichi Sankyo bought a non-ex­clu­sive li­cense to the IP around two plat­forms with which it plans to de­vel­op AAV-based gene ther­a­py prod­ucts.

“We are cur­rent­ly do­ing dis­cov­ery re­search for gene ther­a­py drugs us­ing AAV vec­tors as one of our fo­cused modal­i­ties to­ward sus­tained growth be­yond achieve­ment of our 2025 vi­sion,” Masayu­ki Yabu­ta, Dai­ichi Sankyo’s head of bi­o­log­ics, said at the time.

Takeshi­ta is tak­ing over from Ko­ga, who took the job amid an R&D shake­up back in 2019. A cou­ple of years pri­or, Dai­ichi Sankyo shut­tered a cou­ple of large re­search groups in In­dia and Japan, lay­ing off hun­dreds of staffers and re­dis­trib­ut­ing their work.

“I have watched Dai­ichi Sankyo build and grow with ad­mi­ra­tion,” Takeshi­ta said. “I am hon­ored to join the Dai­ichi Sankyo R&D or­ga­ni­za­tion to seek to ex­tend and im­prove lives of pa­tients and elim­i­nate can­cer al­to­geth­er.”


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