Takeda and Engitix have signed a licensing and collaboration agreement for the discovery and development of new therapies for advanced fibrotic liver diseases.

Under the terms of the agreement, UK-based biotechnology firm Engitix and Japanese pharmaceutical company Takeda will collaborate to complete validation and preclinical development of new therapeutics for liver fibrosis.

Engitix is focused on developing a portfolio of programmes in fibrosis and solid tumours by leveraging its unique human extracellular matrix (ECM) platform.  The company will deploy its ECM discovery platform for collaboration.

Takeda will hold exclusive rights to develop and commercialise the clinical candidates developed under the collaboration, while Engitix is eligible to receive an upfront payment, along with additional near-term payments subject to achievement of certain targets.

Engitix is entitled to receive more than $500m for the achievement of preclinical, development, regulatory and commercial milestones, along with additional royalty payments, pursuant to sales of the products developed under the collaboration.

Engitix co-founder and CEO Giuseppe Mazza said: “Having Takeda, one of the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies with world-class drug development and commercialization capabilities, as a major collaborator, will accelerate the translation of novel ECM-derived targets into potential therapeutics for humans.

“We are excited to continue working with Takeda as this is the only partnership in the field of liver fibrosis currently using a human disease-specific ECM platform, paving the way for potential first-in-class anti-fibrotic therapeutics.”

Engitix platform combines tissue- and disease-specific human ECM with in-vitro models

Liver fibrosis or scarring, along with its life-threatening end-stage of liver cirrhosis, is the common pathway of chronic liver diseases (CLDs), including NASH, alcoholic liver disease, viral hepatitis and cholangiopathies such as primary biliary cirrhosis and primary sclerosing cholangitis.

Engitix said that its platform preserves the natural cell microenvironment by combining tissue- and disease-specific human ECM into in-vitro models, and helps in understanding the role of bioactivity of human ECM in altering the disease progression in fibrosis.

Also, the company’s platform is said to speed up the discovery and reduce the late-stage clinical failures, by accurately predicting disease drivers in human samples.

Takeda GI drug discovery unit head Gareth Hicks said: “There is a vital need for new treatments that will positively impact the lives of patients with advanced liver diseases.

“Engitix’s ECM platform offers a powerful tool for identifying and validating novel targets that will be valuable in the development of direct anti-fibrotic therapies. Our partnership with Engitix underscores our commitment to explore innovative approaches to treat late-stage liver disease.”