Deal-hungry J&J partners with Chinese firm to focus on hep B breakthrough
- Johnson & Johnson (J&J) is revealing details of 21 new partnerships at this year's JP Morgan meeting. Right now, a key focus for J&J is development of infectious disease (ID) therapeutics, with a focus on combo treatments for hepatitis B and HIV. For hep B, J&J has teamed up with China's Chia Tai Tianqing Pharmaceutical Group, a subsidiary of Sino Biopharma known as CTTQ.
- On the HIV side, J&J has invested in a series A round of funding for Aelix Therapeutics, a small Spanish biotech spun out of a large HIV therapeutics center in Barcelona. It has also signed a deal to work with the well-established Viiiv Healthcare—a big partnership comprised of GlaxoSmithKine (GSK), Pfizer, and Shionogi.
- J&J has also inked deals related to medical devices in the surgical and cardiovascular spaces, in addition to partnering with the University of Heidelberg to develop consumer therapies.
In the era of shoring up core competencies and shedding unnecessary appendages, deal-making is the name of the game. M&A has become a principal avenue for finding the missing pieces needed to compete vertically in a therapeutic space.
As 2016 starts, J&J has primed its pipeline with a dazzling variety of partnerships with small biotechs, other large companies, academic centers, and small think-tanks across the globe. Let's not forget last year's deal in which J&J acquired the hep C biotech company, Alios, for $1.75 billion.
While J&J has cast a wide net for partners, the company is particularly focusing in on ID. Lawrence Blatt, who heads up the ID division at J&J, cites collaboration and combo therapy as the two guiding principles in ID development. In terms of combo therapies, this means both creating new drug cocktails and unleashing the synergies of therapies which combine traditional virology with immunologic therapy.
Hepatitis B has become the new frontier in ID therapeutics with Gilead setting the standard for developing curative treatments. Hepatitis B affects roughly 240 million people worldwide, leading to roughly 600,000 liver-related deaths per year. It tends to be a chronic disease with an especially high prevalence in Asia and Africa.
The investment banking firm Jefferies has pegged target revenues for hep B therapeutics at $4.5 billion by 2020. There's a lot of potential in this area, not only for J&J and its partners, but also for Gilead, which is working on a kick and kill therapy, Arbutus, and Arrowhead Therapeutics.