Takeda’s response to COVID-19 has been guided by our values: protecting the health and safety of our colleagues; ensuring our medicines are available to patients who rely on them; doing our part to reduce transmission; and supporting the communities where our colleagues live and work.
We acted early in the pandemic to stop nonessential international travel and shifted to teleworking for our office-based colleagues. We instituted enhanced infection control protocols across our manufacturing sites, plasma collection facilities and R&D labs, to make sure colleagues who need to be on site could continue to do so safely. And we set up new safety protocols for critical clinical trials to continue.
Takeda mobilized to develop medicines for COVID-19. We co-led several cross-industry collaborations, including the COVID R&D Alliance to accelerate therapeutic and vaccine candidates and the CoVIg-19 Plasma Alliance to develop a hyperimmune globulin (read more on page 24). We began testing our existing pharmaceutical products and those in development for activity against the COVID-19 virus. And we have two partnerships to bring COVID-19 vaccines to Japan: one with the Government of Japan and Novavax on the development, manufacturing and commercialization of Novavax’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate in Japan; and one that is a three-way agreement with Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (MHLW) and Moderna to import and distribute Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate in Japan.
President, Global Vaccine Business Unit
Takeda began working on treatments for COVID-19 in the pandemic’s early days, while keeping employees safe. President of the Global Vaccine Business Unit and co-lead of Takeda’s coronavirus response, Rajeev Venkayya, tells us more.
How did Takeda continue to put patients first in your response to COVID-19?
As a biopharmaceutical company, we felt a responsibility to use our expertise and capabilities to develop medicines to tackle COVID-19. We’ve used our leadership in plasma-derived therapies to activate research, development and manufacturing of an antibody treatment for high-risk individuals with COVID-19. We later established the CoVIg-19 Plasma Alliance, a collaboration between multiple companies to develop a single unbranded treatment for COVID-19. We are currently testing the treatment in clinical trials, and if the data is positive, we plan to submit to regulatory authorities.
In tandem, we began studying whether any of Takeda’s existing products, as well as those in development, may be effective treatments for infected patients. We’re active participants in R&D consortia to evaluate these potential treatments, including the NIH Activ Consortium, and the industry-led COVID R&D collaboration.
We established the CoVIg-19 Plasma Alliance as a collaboration between multiple companies to develop an unbranded potential treatment for COVID-19.
Takeda participated in several virtual external events, including panels, webinars and podcasts throughout 2020 to further engage and educate the public on a range of topics, such as the importance of mask wearing, layered interventions, maintaining safety and efficacy of vaccines, considerations for opening schools and the practicalities and politics of ensuring global equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines through COVAX, the vaccines pillar of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator.
And we have two partnerships with the Japanese government to bring COVID-19 vaccines to Japan: one with Novavax on the development, manufacturing and commercialization of their COVID-19 vaccine candidate in Japan; and one with Moderna to import and supply Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate in Japan.
Furthermore, to combat the spread of harmful health misinformation, we are working with industry associations to bring more transparency and education of the science behind vaccine development. As part of BIO’s Infectious Disease Prevention Network, we are supporting a new vaccine advocacy campaign launched this past summer by The Public Good Projects titled “Stronger,” which aims to stop the spread of harmful misinformation about science, medicine and vaccines.
The pandemic has brought a complete shift in how we work and collaborate. How has Takeda ensured your people’s safety and minimal disruption at work?
The safety of our employees comes first. With approximately 50,000 people across about
80 countries, there has been no one-size-fits-all response to how we support our colleagues and their families, as well as the patients and health care practitioners who are at the core of our purpose at Takeda. We moved quickly to stop international travel in early February and shifted to a global remote work policy for office-based staff in early March. For those unable to work remotely, such as our colleagues in manufacturing, BioLife plasma donation facilities and laboratories, we instituted a number of protective measures to protect people in the workplace. Throughout the pandemic, we have educated our colleagues on COVID-19 and gave them guidance on how they could protect themselves and their families.
As communities gain control of the virus, we have implemented a comprehensive, phased, risk-based approach to returning to the workplace, recognizing that some protective measures will continue to be needed until there is widespread availability of a vaccine.
We’re committed to ensuring the integrity of the clinical trials we conduct, while safeguarding everyone who participates in them.
How has Takeda continued to carry out critical clinical trials despite COVID-19 restrictions?
We’re committed to ensuring the integrity of the clinical trials we conduct, while safeguarding the many patients, health care providers, employees and other partners who participate in them. We appreciate the extraordinary circumstances faced by those operating clinical studies around the world, while managing the additional burdens caused by COVID-19. Due to the global impact of COVID-19, we placed a temporary pause on the initiation of new studies in March 2020, with the exception of our plasma-derived antibody treatment for COVID-19. For those studies already ongoing, we have paused the activation of new study sites and new patient enrollment for now, with a small number of exceptions.
Partnered with the World Food Programme to support a treatment and isolation center for humanitarian workers responding to COVID-19 and a supply chain control tower in Africa
Joined hands with the United Nations Population Fund to support
the continued delivery of maternal and newborn health services in Benin, Guinea and Togo during the COVID-19 pandemic
Began two partnerships with the Government of Japan, one with Novavax and one with Moderna, to bring COVID-19 vaccines to Japan