Every month, MassBio spotlights a member company and its efforts in advancing the life sciences industry and supporting the patients we serve. In February, we profile Takeda and speak with Liz Lewis, Head of Global Oncology, Patient Value, Policy and Access. Liz has been with Takeda since 2002 and in her current role is responsible for accelerating Takeda’s efforts in securing rapid and broad patient access and continuing to strengthen Takeda’s patient advocacy and policy approach. Liz is also a member of the MassBio Board of Directors. Takeda is largest life sciences employer in Massachusetts, with over 6,200 employees statewide across 25 different sites.
The following is an edited version of the conversation between MassBio CEO and President Kendalle Burlin O’Connell and Takeda’s Liz Lewis. The interview was recorded in early January 2024.
Liz, welcome to MassBio’s Member Spotlight Series. Please tell us about Takeda, the company’s mission and current initiatives supporting patients, especially the activities happening right here in Massachusetts.
Hi, Kendalle. It’s great to be here today. Takeda is a company that’s steeped in an over 242-year history. We’re a Japanese company with deep roots in Massachusetts, being part of the Massachusetts life sciences and MassBio community for over 25 years. We’re committed to developing treatments that create a difference in patients’ lives across core therapeutic areas. Our core therapeutic areas are oncology, gastrointestinal and inflammation, rare disease, plasma derived therapy, neuroscience and vaccines. We aspire to create a better health for people and a brighter future for the world.
What does it mean to Takeda, the largest biopharma employer here in the Commonwealth to be in Massachusetts and have strong government support for the industry?
Innovation in Massachusetts is incredible. And part of that is because of the collaboration between the industry, between academia, and between the administration. We’re so thankful for this collaboration, and it really is the collaboration of all three that creates the exciting ecosystem in Massachusetts.
We take our role as the largest life sciences employer in Massachusetts seriously. We sit on the Economic Development Council helping the administration with new programs and plans to continue to foster this innovation hub. We’re particularly grateful for the support of Massachusetts through the years, beginning with a $1 billion investment in the life sciences industry and that investment continuing through today.
What do you see as the biggest challenge facing the life science industry here today?
We’re at a crossroads in the life sciences industry in that we’re at a place where we’re developing more and more innovations for patients. We’re at a place where we’re beginning to be able to envision a real possibility for cures for patients when in the past that was such a huge aspiration. But of course, no innovation for patients is helpful if patients don’t have access and there are so many barriers to access that we believe continue to pose challenges to patients. We will continue to be focused on the development of first-in-class, best-in-class medicines, and ensuring that these medicines are available to all patients who need them.
Can you talk about one way in which Takeda is working to achieve health equity?
At Takeda, we believe that health equity is something that needs to be embedded in the way we do everything, from the very inception of our development programs through manufacturing and through commercialization. When I think about everything that we’re doing, what I’d really like to focus on right now is the importance of bringing in diverse and underrepresented communities to our clinical trials. Development is so important in order for us to understand how our medicines work and whether there are any differences in different patient populations. We really need this diversity in our clinical trials that forms the core of how we think about health equity and from there branches out into everything else that we do.
One of the things that we’re particularly proud of is being a founding sponsor of the MassNextGen program. The MassNextGen program is a really exciting program that focuses on females and underrepresented individuals, so we help underrepresented CEOs start their companies up, find the venture funding that they need, and provide additional support. It’s a really incredible way to continue to embed diversity in the life sciences industry in Massachusetts.
But we don’t focus on just MassNextGen, we’re also focused on all levels of the workforce in Massachusetts. We’re committed to developing STEM within the school systems in Massachusetts, as well as developing and working with MassBio on various training programs for workers in Massachusetts.
What’s next for Takeda? What are you focused on in this coming year?
I’m so excited for 2024 and for 2024 at Takeda. At the end of 2023, we had two exciting approvals, and we look forward to 2024 to be able to bring more medicines to patients and more innovation to patients. We have a robust and deep pipeline. This year we’re advancing some of our assets into late-stage development and I’m really excited to see the opportunities that we have there.
We’ll continue to focus on embedding health equity into how we develop these medicines, and we’ll also be looking at data and digital to determine how we can take these first-in-class or best-in-class medicines and bring them to patients faster than we have in the past.
Liz, thank you so much for speaking with me today. Do you have any closing thoughts to share with the MassBio community?
One of the things that Takeda is really excited about as the largest life sciences employer in Massachusetts is the opportunity to collaborate and co-create across the ecosystem in Massachusetts
with MassBio, the government, industry and academia, so that we can continue to really build and solidify our best-in-class life sciences center here in Massachusetts.
Takeda is doing exciting work right here in Massachusetts. We look forward to watching Takeda continue to discover and develop innovative therapies to deliver potentially transformative treatments to patients all around the globe.
Takeda is focused on creating better health for people and a brighter future for the world. We aim to discover and deliver life-transforming treatments in our core therapeutic and business areas, including gastrointestinal and inflammation, rare diseases, plasma-derived therapies, oncology, neuroscience and vaccines. Together with our partners, we aim to improve the patient experience and advance a new frontier of treatment options through our dynamic and diverse pipeline. To learn more, visit: www.takeda.com.