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When Christophe Weber went after his first deal as head of Takeda Pharmaceutical Co., he veered off the well-worn path to the U.S. and Europe and went to Japan’s Kyoto University instead.

Earlier this year, Weber and Nobel laureate Shinya Yamanaka, based at Kyoto University, agreed on a 10-year partnership to develop therapies for conditions such as heart failure and diabetes. The ¥20 billion ($160 million) accord, announced less than three weeks after Weber became chief executive officer in April, was the biggest between a university and a pharmaceutical company in Japan.

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