Asia’s biggest drug maker, Takeda Pharmaceutical Co., added Intellikine, a San Diego-based cancer drug company that develops small-molecule drugs for as much as $310 million, according to a company statement in December.

Takeda will buy Intellikine in $190 million up front and pay up to $120 million in additional milestone payments.

Intellikine has established a portfolio of patented small molecule kinase inhibitors that selectively target the PI-3 kinase pathway, a key target in cancer biology because of its impact on a wide array of cellular functions which include cell growth, proliferation and survival.

Takeda said that these small-molecule kinase inhibitors are frequently pursued in cancer treatment, and that Intellikine has generated promising data in early-stage studies, and is expected to enter mid-stage trials in 2012.

Takeda’s acquisition will place Millennium: The Takeda Oncology Company in one of the most competitive fields in the cancer drug business, with rivals like GlaxoSmithKline, Roche, Novartis, and Gilead Sciences, and among other pharmaceutical giants.

“As single agents or in different combinations with novel molecules within our robust pipeline, we anticipate that these assets will be able to deliver transforming therapies to cancer patients,” Millennium: Takeda’s CEO, Deborah Dunsire, said in a statement.

"We are pleased that Takeda recognizes the potential of our clinical-stage programs as well as our strong pipeline and discovery engine. Together, with Millennium and Takeda, we can bring the resources and expertise necessary to enable our drug candidates to reach their full potential in the treatment of patients with cancer,” said Troy Wilson, President and CEO, Intellikine in a statement.

Intellikine was founded by Kevan Shokat, a professor at the University of California, San Francisco in 2007.

Recently, many Japanese drug companies have been pursuing growth overseas to compensate for its bleaker domestic prospects and diminishing product pipelines, according to The Wall Street Journal.