Takeda Inks Licensing Option Deal with Gene Editing Platform Developer Emendo

Apr 25, 2019 | CRISPR, Gene-Editing, Rare Diseases

Takeda Pharmaceutical inked a deal to secure a position in the gene editing research race. The Japanese research sponsor entered into a licensing option with and through its venture capital arm, investing in Emendo Biotherapeutics  a gene editing discovery platform developer. The monetary terms of this deal are not being disclosed to the market. Takeda negotiated an option license to access the proprietary nuclease program OMNI to edit two genes in support of Takeda’s genetic disorder clinical program reported in Cision PR Newswire.

Emendo is headquartered in New York, NY with an R&D operation in Ness-Ziona Israel. The company develops next generation gene editing tools for genetic disorders. With a background in protein engineering, they are disrupting the market with superior protein tools to resolve emerging bottlenecks in the field. THe press release notes they focus on engineering site-specific nucleases for an accurate, sequence-specific and efficient correction mechanism that is homology-directed repair (HDR) mediated, and effective in post-mitotic cells. Targeting specialized and highly active CRISPR OMNI nucleases, the venture capitalizes on their protein and selection platform intellectual property.

Some other deal points:

  • Emendo agreed to apply its gene editing engineering platform to optimize OMNI nuclease (aim of meeting the highest specificity and activity on Takeda’s selected genes)
  • Takeda agreed to issue Emendo convertible notes through its Takeda Ventures arm—with funds from the transaction targeted to advance Emendo’s novel nuclease gene editing discovery platform and proprietary product development programs
  • Notes will be converted to future Series B financing already in the planning stage (goal is to support Emendo to advance its IP into initial clinical trials
  • Emendo reports that it is evaluating preclinical programs for the prerequisite optimization required to thereafter prepare for clinical trials.

Takeda made an earlier investment along with OrbiMed, a healthcare investment firm managing $14 billion, in Emendo during its founding year of 2015.

Noteworthy, Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology News  reported that Takeda disclosed other partnerships that include gene or genome editing including:

  • Japan Agency for Medical Research and Development (AMED): Cyclic Innovation for Clinical Empowerment (CiCLE) program
  • Takeda spin-out and retains ownership in GenAhead Bio, a Fujisawa City, Japan venture to which Takeda provides “efficient genome editing, fee for service and/or collaboration in cell/gene therapies.”

According to Pitchbook,  Emendo was founded in 2015 and raised $12 million (latest Takeda deal precluded). A review of professional network LinkedIn reveals Emendo employs approximately 20. The founder, David Baram  earned his PhD from the Weizmann Institute of Science in 2007. Baram undoubtedly experienced significant real-world lessons as a research assistant at the prestigious institutions of both Max Planck Institute in Germany and also Weizmann, headquartered in Israel. Baram moved around for a few years; he sharpened his business senses, undoubtedly, during a five year stint at BASE Investments.  He co-founded a venture called Smzyme  but it appears it hasn’t progressed much in the market. However OrbiMed was an investor and this is probably how Baram crossed paths with them.

We believe a key player underpinning this venture is Liat Rockah  who earned his PhD at Weizmann Institute of Science and prior earned a BS in Biotechnology at Tel Aviv University. We like Rockah’s intensity and style as he notes “by harnessing the power of Darwinian selection in the laboratory, we can create new functions, new chemicals, and new catalysts—that is ‘Directed Evolution’. If you can dream it, you can select it.”

It will be fascinating to monitor the progress of the Emendo/Takeda deal specifically and more broadly the emergence of Emendo as a player in the rapidly unfolding gene and genome editing market space.

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