Japan’s Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd. said it will purchase La Jolla-based Intellikine Inc., a 2007 biotechnology startup, for as much as $310 million. The companies expect the deal to close in January.

Under terms of the purchase, Takeda will pay $190 million upfront, with an additional $120 million hinging on clinical development milestones, the companies said, in their Dec. 20 announcement. Intellikine has three drug programs in phase 1 trials.

“San Diego is such a great place for biotech, but you still need examples of exits like this to keep it a great place,” said Mike Powell, general partner for Sofinnova Ventures in Menlo Park, and a founding investor in Intellikine.

Intellikine said it has raised a total of $41 million from Sofinnova and a consortium of other firms, including CMEA Capital, Novartis Venture Funds, Abingworth, U.S. Venture Partners, FinTech Global Capital and Biogen Idec. Takeda’s upfront payment of $190 million offers a return of more than four times the funds invested.

“It’s a clean exit from an investor’s point of view,” Powell said, adding that Intellikine’s top executives “haven’t had a second” to ponder their next career move. Intellikine, led by President and CEO Troy Wilson, a molecular biologist with a law degree, has 36 employees.

Takeda said its cancer business unit, Millennium: The Takeda Oncology Company, will take over global development responsibility for two of Intellikine’s drug candidates, INK28 and INK117. Both are Phosphoinositide 3-kinase inhibitors, which target enzymes that drive cell growth and play a key role in many types of cancer.

“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,” said Millennium President and CEO Deborah Dunsire.

Intellikine’s assets also include a drug program for inflammatory diseases that’s already partnered with Cambridge, Mass.-based Infinity Pharmaceuticals Inc. That deal, struck in July 2010, included an upfront license payment of $13.5 million with up to $475 million in milestones.

— Kelly Quigley