Japan’s Takeda eyes new focus on vaccines after OTC asset sales: CEO

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A Takeda logo is seen in its research hub in Cambridge

By Rocky Swift

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan’s Takeda Pharmaceutical Co <4502.T> is looking at making vaccines a core business after completing asset sales to lower debt following its takeover of Shire Plc, Chief Executive Christophe Weber said.

Japan’s biggest drugmaker by revenue recently completed $10 billion in sales of mostly over-the-counter drug assets to reduce debt after its $59 billion purchase of Shire, saying it would focus on five key business areas.

With a dengue fever vaccine in development and deals to make and distribute COVID-19 vaccines in Japan, the company could add a new pillar to its business lineup, Weber said.

“We are in the vaccines business,” Weber told Reuters in an interview. “If the dengue vaccine is successful, yes, it would be a sixth one.”

Takeda’s current five core businesses are oncology, gastroenterology, neuroscience, rare diseases, and plasma-derived therapies.

The company looked into making a COVID-19 vaccine, but determined with its mix of technology and capacity, it was a better fit to work with other developers, Weber said.

Takeda agreed last month to distribute 50 million doses of Moderna Inc’s <MRNA.O> COVID-19 vaccine in Japan. That was on top of a previous deal to produce Novavax Inc’s <NVAX.O> COVID-19 candidate, aiming to make 250 million doses.

Takeda’s dengue vaccine candidate, TAK-003, is on track for regulatory filing in Asia, Latin America, and the European Union by the end of fiscal 2020, the company said last month. The disease is spread by mosquitoes and is estimated to affect 50 million people a year worldwide with 22,000 deaths.

Following the Shire takeover, Takeda reached its asset disposal goal with the sale of its Japanese consumer healthcare business to Blackstone Group <BX.N> for 242 billion yen ($2.31 billion) announced in August.

The company was not eyeing any more major sell offs, Weber said, saying any such deals would be “very marginal.”

(Reporting by Rocky Swift; editing by Jane Wardell)

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