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GE and Takeda make liver pact

Published on 13/11/14 at 08:09am
Takeda image
Takeda HQ, Tokyo

GE Healthcare and Takeda Pharmaceutical have joined forces to develop treatments which target liver conditions including non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).

The companies have set up an R&D agreement - with undisclosed financial terms - which will see them look at imaging in hepatic fibrosis, a key factor in the diagnosis and treatment of liver diseases. 

“This alliance will assist efforts to develop new therapeutic options that ease the burden on the patient,” says Tadataka Yamada, chief medical and scientific officer at Takeda. “Moving forward, we will continue to put the patient first and incorporate a wide range of innovations into the field of drug discovery.” 

Early stages of the condition have a dearth of clinical symptoms, but tissues harden due to fibrosis which accompanies the inflammation of the liver and a worsening of symptoms due to cirrhosis.

A liver biopsy, where a needle is inserted into the liver to remove a sample for analysis, is currently required to establish this – but GE’s MR elastography can measure the relative stiffness of liver tissues in a non-invasive manner.

Takeda will use this diagnostic imaging technology to produce a liver ‘stiffness map’: the aim of the collaboration is to develop both new drugs and new diagnostics, making possible earlier diagnosis of hepatic fibrosis and the discovery of therapies to control the progression of liver disease.

 “We have been focussing efforts on developing technologies to help provide solutions for liver cancer,” explains Akihiko Kumagai, chairman of GE Healthcare Japan with overall responsibility for liver disease programmes.

“As one location in our global R&D network, Japan, whose strategy is to create solutions for an ageing population, has been a driving force behind these efforts,” he adds. “Innovations by GE will continue to contribute to the health of people all around the world.”

NAFLD is a growing concern among liver specialists, and liver disease as a whole could overtake stroke and coronary heart disease as a killer in the next two decades.

NAFLD - whose prevalence has doubled during the last 20 years as that of other liver conditions has stabilised - and non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) have become the number one cause of liver disease in developed countries.

More than 100 million people worldwide are estimated to be suffering from NAFLD - or as much as 20% of the populations of advanced industrial nations - as age and unhealthy lifestyles take their toll.

NAFLD and NASH are also key health issues in developing regions, new research suggests.

Adam Hill


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