Skyhawk signs neuro deal with Takeda as it prepares to expand its partnered indications
Monday, May 06, 2019 12:00 AM

Skyhawk signed its third major deal in a year, this time with Takeda. Like its first two partnerships, the focus will be in neurology, but Skyhawk is in discussions with companies that could help extend its platform to other areas.

On Tuesday, Skyhawk Therapeutics Inc. (Waltham, Mass.) granted Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd. (Tokyo:4502; NYSE:TAK) exclusive worldwide rights to therapies against multiple targets for undisclosed neurodegenerative diseases. Skyhawk will be responsible for discovery and preclinical development using its SkySTAR platform, after which Takeda will take over the programs. Financial details are undisclosed.

Skyhawk uses SkySTAR to discover and develop small molecules capable of modulating RNA splicing within the spliceosome, dictating which exons are included in the final mRNA transcript and offering drug developers a mechanism to control protein expression at the level of mRNA. The therapeutic approach can be applied broadly to indications where attempts at drugging a target at the protein level have been unsuccessful (see "Splice Time").

Skyhawk's lead program is in preclinical development for an undisclosed oncology indication, but so far it has kept its deals centered on neurology.

Since launching in January 2018, Skyhawk has entered option deals with Celgene Corp. (NASDAQ:CELG) and Biogen Inc. (NASDAQ:BIIB) covering undisclosed neurology targets. Skyhawk received $134 million up front combined from the two deals (see "Skyhawk Raises $40 Million, Partners with Celgene""Biogen Looks to Expand Neuro Pipeline via C4, Skyhawk Deals").

Skyhawk co-founder, Chairman and CEO William Haney told BioCentury its first deals were in neurology in part because the roots of the technology are there.

He said Skyhawk limited the scope of its partnerships following the Celgene deal, turning down companies seeking partnerships outside of neurology, so it could reach a point where it felt confident it could execute well. Getting to that point included building out its team internally and with its CRO partners and expanding its chemical libraries.

Now that its management team and platform has evolved, Haney said Skyhawk this year opened up partnering discussions in other fields. "We have term sheets in oncology, and in active discussion in immunology, autoimmune disease and infectious disease," he said, but declined to disclose the potential partners.

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