Creating Innovative Medicines that Change the Standard of Care: A Pharma Day® Q&A with Daiichi Sankyo

Jun 18, 2024

2024 Daiichi Sankyo Pharma Day®

The following is an interview with Ken Takeshita, Global Head of Research & Development for Daiichi Sankyo. To learn more about Daiichi Sankyo’s approach to innovation and partnering, register for 2024 Daiichi Sankyo Pharma Day® on July 16, 2024 in the MassBioHub.

What does innovation mean to Daiichi Sankyo?  

At Daiichi Sankyo, innovation means changing standards of care through new thinking – particularly for patients with few, insufficient, or no options – to make significant differences in people’s lives. A prime example of this is our breakthrough DXd antibody drug conjugate (ADC) technology, which has rewritten the thinking about ADCs and how some cancers are treated.

We believe that such innovation will arise from a combination of our core scientific strengths, such as protein engineering, medicinal chemistry and translational research, combined with scientific insights and the right corporate culture.  We bring a diverse range of people with high levels of expertise and commitment, each with a strong desire to go beyond existing boundaries. 

What are Daiichi Sankyo’s priorities for partnering?

Our partnering focus is centered on two main objectives: 1) to maximize the efficacy and benefits of our existing portfolio through novel combination and sequencing therapies and 2) to focus on creating new treatments in disease areas of high unmet medical need.  Disease areas of interest include, but are not limited to, oncology, immunology, CNS, ophthalmic and cardiovascular diseases and fibrosis.

We are interested in exploring the ability of different modalities to deliver breakthrough therapies to the people who need them.  These include ADCs, cell and gene therapy, mRNA, other nucleic acid approaches, and more.

Partnerships are clearly important to Daiichi Sankyo. How does Daiichi Sankyo support the companies/innovators that it works with?  

Daiichi Sankyo leverages our strengths and resources toward the success of all our collaborations.  Our strengths include technological expertise, translational research, and clinical development capabilities, combined with our singular focus to improve and extend lives. We approach relationships with agility, for mutual benefit, for the purpose of building value that exceeds the sum of the independent parts. 

Two recent alliances are among the largest collaborations in the history of oncology and are successfully bringing medicines to patients faster and in more locations than we could alone. We also remain highly interested in smaller collaborations in early stages of drug development, including the discovery stage.  No matter the size or structure of any alliance, we approach them with the same philosophy: to quickly bring innovations to patients.

We begin by ensuring that interests are aligned and then support the relationship with strong alliance management, flexibility when appropriate and open and frequent communication. 

Ken Takeshita
Global Head, Research & Development


As Global Head of Research & Development for Daiichi Sankyo, Ken is responsible for leading the organization’s research and development efforts, including the global clinical development strategy – serving as chair of the Global R&D Leadership Team (GRDLT) and the Global Portfolio and Asset Decision Committee (G-PAD). Ken and his teams oversee the R&D organization worldwide to successfully deliver on the advancement of the global oncology pipeline.

Prior to joining Daiichi Sankyo, Ken had extensive R&D and clinical experience, most recently serving as Senior Vice President and Global Head of Development, and interim Head of Research, with Kite Pharma (now part of Gilead Sciences). Ken also served as Senior Vice President of Clinical Research at Sorrento Therapeutics. He has led development programs across solid tumors and blood cancers at Celgene Corporation and Amgen, including over a decade at Celgene as corporate Vice President of Clinical Research and Development, leading and overseeing global phase 1-3 trials for registration in hematologic malignancies. 

Before joining the biotechnology field, Ken was in academic medicine in hematology on the faculty at Yale University School of Medicine and New York University School of Medicine. Ken earned a bachelor’s degree in molecular biology from Harvard University and his MD from Yale University. He received post-doctoral training in hematology, oncology and developmental biology at Yale and in hematopoiesis at University of Tokyo. 

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