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Pharmaceuticals

Takeda taps Shire's global network to sell prized dengue vaccine

Japanese drugmaker to utilize sales channels from massive acquisition

Takeda Pharmaceutical is developing the first vaccine for dengue fever that can be administered to children as young as four. (Photo courtesy of the company)

TOKYO -- Takeda Pharmaceutical plans to become the first Japanese drugmaker to market vaccines on a global scale, taking advantage of access to new sales channels gained from its acquisition of Irish peer Shire last year.

Takeda is developing what would be the world's first vaccine for dengue fever that can be given to children as young as four. Dengue is a viral disease spread by mosquitoes that is endemic in much of the world, with 400 million infections and 20,000 deaths each year.

The company plans to apply for approval in Latin America in fiscal 2020, with an eye toward marketing it using Shire's network starting the following year. It anticipates more than 100 billion yen ($914 million) in annual sales.

More than 80% of the vaccine market is held by four Western companies, including Merck and Sanofi, but the rewards for gaining a foothold could be substantial. Vaccines constitute the fourth-largest area of the pharmaceutical market, according to U.K. researcher Evaluate, which put global sales at $30.5 billion in 2018 and forecasts a rise to $44.8 billion in 2024. And vaccines can provide a steady stream of income once approved in a given country.

In its push abroad, Takeda plans to make use of more than seven decades of experience in vaccine production. It offers vaccines against such diseases as influenza and rubella, but only in Japan, with annual revenue estimated in the tens of billions of yen.

The company also looks to use Shire's connections with specialized hospitals -- built on its strengths in blood products and treatments for rare diseases -- to market vaccines and other high-value-added products. While Takeda generates more than 80% of its revenue outside Japan, this comes mainly from oncology drugs and ulcerative colitis treatments, which go through different channels.

In addition to the dengue vaccine, Takeda is working on vaccines for ailments including hand, foot and mouth disease. It targets 300 billion yen in sales of the dengue vaccine and three others in the medium term, boosting its overall revenue by about 10%.

The $62 billion acquisition of Shire is part of a global wave of big mergers and acquisitions in the pharmaceutical industry as companies seek to get their hands on promising drug candidates. But given that many new treatments never make it to market, finding other ways to ensure that these deals pay off has become an increasingly important task.

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