Takeda's SVP of GI Uthra Sundaram on the company's future, Shire & more

Takeda is trying to change how gastrointestinal diseases are treated. Uthra Sundaram, senior vice president of Takeda's gastrointestinal business unit, shared insights into the company's focus on GI, its drug pipeline and how the company's acquisition of Shire has been received.

Note: Responses were edited for style and clarity.

Question: Why is Takeda focusing so heavily on the gastrointestinal space?

Uthra Sundaram: For years, gastroenterology and gastrointestinal diseases have been a core focus area for Takeda. These diseases are continuing to rise in prevalence across every continent, and take a truly significant toll on the lives of patients — many are chronic, painful and incredibly disruptive to people's lives. Imagine being diagnosed with short bowel syndrome as a child or eosinophilic esophagitis or inflammatory bowel disease as a young adult, in many cases knowing that how you engage in school, social activities and work will forever be changed.

Patients have limited treatment options for these and other GI diseases. Our vision is to advance the study and management of GI to truly impact the lives of people living with GI diseases.

Q: What do you view as the biggest problem in gastroenterology?

US: As I mentioned, there are limited treatment options for patients who will be managing these conditions for the rest of their lives, so making a meaningful difference in the safest way possible is critically important. As an organization, Takeda is passionate about pushing ourselves and our partners to pursue the most transformational and innovative science, research programs, collaborations, patient services and educational opportunities, to best meet the needs of patients and their physicians. Significant unmet needs remain in this area, and we're challenging ourselves to raise the bar on how GI diseases are researched and treated, on behalf of patients who might benefit from our efforts.

Q: How is Takeda working to solve the problem?

US: We believe in collaboration and in taking a holistic approach to the development of transformative, first-in-class treatments, bringing diverse perspectives together and thinking creatively, to drive innovation forward for this community. Whether it's with academic medical centers, patient advocacy groups, individual scientists or many other members of the GI community, Takeda is working diligently with partners and peers to move together beyond the current treatment landscape.

Q: Three years down the road, what is in Takeda's portfolio?

US: Our research mission is to deliver innovative therapeutics by focusing on targeted therapies for distinct populations, and remaining scientifically curious. To achieve this, Takeda has expanded and honed its expertise in the areas of gastroenterology associated with the highest unmet needs, using cutting-edge technologies to discover and develop a sophisticated range of medicines.

Our GI pipeline is full of meaningful candidates with four GI disease groups as core research focus areas:

  • IBD: Our efforts are focused on advancements in ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, including complications associated with IBD such as perianal fistulas. We're also exploring new treatment modalities like stem cells and microbiome therapies to bring transformative innovation to patients with IBD.
  • Immune-related diseases: Complementing our efforts in IBD is research into other inflammatory diseases of the GI tract, such as celiac disease and eosinophilic esophagitis. Key advances in science coupled with marked changes in societal attitude make celiac disease an area where Takeda has the potential to take a leading role for the benefit of patients.
  • Motility disorders: We are addressing the higher unmet need of patient groups with motility disorders such as gastroparesis, post-operative gastric dysfunction and chronic idiopathic constipation where existing therapies are ineffective or have unfavorable benefit-to-risk profiles.
  • Liver diseases: Despite the extraordinary ability of the liver to repair itself, this capacity becomes exhausted in many patients and leads to advanced fibrosis and ultimately cirrhosis. In line with our mission, we have evolved our interest to focus on the most critical unmet needs in this space: advanced patients with fibrosis.

Q: How has the Shire integration changed Takeda's portfolio?

US: The integration will help us in our mission to accelerate our focus in gastroenterology and advance our vision of delivering transformational medicines. We're building our portfolio to focus on supporting patient communities in real need of new treatment options, and the strong GI products and pipeline candidates from Shire truly complemented Takeda's strengths in GI. In just the few months since our integration with Shire, we've already built great momentum for the combined portfolio, including a new product launch for CIC, a new indication in SBS, an important FDA filing in UC and presentation of the first head-to-head study directly comparing the efficacy and safety of two biologic therapies in UC.

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