West Coast Editor

Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. apparently took notice of Syrrx Inc.'s $178 million deal last year with Roche - not to mention the San Diego-based firm's broad expertise in X-ray crystallography, and an eye-opening partnership with PPD Inc.

Japan's leading pharma company has agreed to take over Syrrx in a $270 million buyout expected to close this quarter that would transform Syrrx into a subsidiary of Takeda America Holdings Inc.

"They were looking for a start to building a U.S. discovery research presence, and this is their first in the 200-plus-year history of the company," said Stephen Kaldor, chief scientific officer for Syrrx. Takeda has discovery centers in Osaka and Tsukuba, Japan.

"Takeda expressed interest in our programs, people and technologies for over a year," he added. "We've been dating for quite a while."

Syrrx uses crystallography to find 3-dimensional structures of drug targets and design compounds. The firm has ongoing efforts in metabolic disease, cancer, and inflammation. Several compounds for Type II diabetes are in the clinic, including human dipeptidyl peptidase IV (DPP IV) inhibitor No. 1, which the firm expects to enter Phase II trials this year. The diabetes program is partnered with PPD, of Wilmington, N.C. (See BioWorld Today, Nov. 21, 2003.)

"We're in Phase Ib clinical studies with PPD right now, and [the start of Phase II timing] is a forecast, but we're optimistic that will happen," Kaldor said.

The deal with Nutley, N.J.-based F. Hoffmann-La Roche Inc. (the U.S. prescription drug unit of the Roche Group, of Basel, Switzerland) came in the spring of last year. It involves preclinical programs focused on two emerging targets - histone deacetylase, an oncology target that regulates gene transcription, and 11-beta hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase-1, a metabolic target that reduces the production of cortisol, which is overexpressed in diabetics. (See BioWorld Today, May 13, 2004.)

Officials from Syrrx at the time called the Roche deal one that allowed for "full-bore drug discovery" by Syrrx, and potentially even clinical development.

"We've had a number of significant deals, but I would say our deals with PPD and Roche really caught interest among various parties," Kaldor said.

Syrrx also completed an agreement to use the crystallization approach across multiple drug targets for Biogen Idec Inc., of Cambridge, Mass. That deal started in December 2003 and concluded last summer. (See BioWorld Today, May 28, 2004.)

Takeda has been on the move lately, licensing from San Antonio-based BioNumerik Pharmaceuticals Inc. marketing rights to the Phase III chemoprotective agent, Tavocept. (See BioWorld Today, Oct. 11, 2004.)

Earlier last year, Takeda entered a drug development collaboration with another Texas firm, Lexicon Genetics Inc. in The Woodlands, which could mean up to $50 million for the latter if Takeda commercializes a high blood pressure drug directed against targets discovered in Lexicon's Genome5000 program. The up-front payment was $12 million for access to all of Lexicon's targets in that area. (See BioWorld Today, July 29, 2004.)

Kaldor said the companies are "still working through" the deals and collaborations under way by each. "It's business as usual during the closing period," he said, adding that Takeda "clearly wants to access our full capacity."

Syrrx will be helping identify in-licensing candidates for Takeda, he said.

"There will be an element of combining our scientific minds with the minds of Takeda to identify good opportunities," he said.

Syrrx is expected to keep its 90 employees and remain in the same location, said Keith Wilson, vice president of business development and structural chemistry for the company.

"We have room to grow in this building," he said, adding that whether Syrrx keeps its name has "yet to be determined."

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