Japan’s largest drugmaker, Takeda Pharmaceutical, is to acquire US biotechnology company Syrrx for about $270 million dollars in cash. The deal ties in with Takeda’s strategy of boosting its research pipeline and gives it a research base in the all-important US market.

“We have a pressing need to strengthen our new drug development,” Takeda president Yasuchika Hasegawa said in a statement, in acknowledgement of the fact that the company is facing patent expirations on some of its older drugs, including the top-selling proton pump inhibitor drug, Prevacid (lansoprazole). Prevacid is due to lose US patent protection in 2009, but is already seeing its sales dip now that generic and over-the-counter versions of another drug in the class, AstraZeneca’s Prilosec (omeprazole), have reached market [[01/02/05e]].

Meanwhile, Takeda is already facing a legal challenge to its diabetes drug, Actos (pioglitazone), from India’s Ranbaxy, even though it is not due to lose patent protection until 2011. And the Japanese company’s efforts to bring through a successor to bolster the diabetes franchise hit a hurdle at the end of last year when it had to suspend development of a follow-up drug – TAK-559 – after elevated liver enzyme levels were seen in some patients receiving the drug [[21/12/04c]].

If the acquisition of Syrrx goes through as planned in the first quarter of this year, Takeda will gain two drugs for diabetes – one in Phase II and the other in Phase I testing – as well as compounds for diabetes and cancer in preclinical testing. Meanwhile, Syrrx has a platform X-ray crystallography technology for determining the three-dimensional structure of drug targets that will be useful across Takeda’s in-house research projects.