- Johnson & Johnson is backing out of two research partnerships with Bavarian Nordic, announcing Monday it would end collaboration agreements with the Danish drugmaker for research into vaccines for hepatitis B and human papillomavirus.
- Both agreements were centered on technology developed by Bavarian Nordic. J&J never began clinical testing of a hepatitis B vaccine based on the platform, however, and noted in its May 9 statement that it will stop efforts to make an HPV vaccine given the "widespread uptake" of other, effective shots.
- J&J will continue working with Bavarian Nordic in HIV and Ebola. In 2020, the European Commission approved J&J's Ebola vaccine Mvabea, which was developed with Bavarian Nordic's technology.
J&J and Bavarian Nordic partnered on hepatitis B and HIV research in 2017, when the pharmaceutical company paid $10 million upfront and invested another $33 million in Bavarian Nordic shares to use the biotech's technology against those diseases. The companies' collaboration in HPV, meanwhile, dates back to a 2015 deal.
Since then, Merck & Co.'s Gardasil 9 vaccine for HPV has become the go-to preventive option in the U.S., so much so that GlaxoSmithKline withdrew its competing vaccine Cervarix.
"There has been widespread uptake of effective, preventive vaccines against human papillomaviruses," J&J said in its statement on terminating the collaboration. "Due to this and the prioritization of other programs, Janssen will not be focusing R&D efforts on a therapeutic vaccine against human papillomaviruses at this time."
In hepatitis B, J&J said it would continue to prioritize study of vaccines and therapeutics. A combination treatment dubbed JNJ-3989 is currently in Phase 2 clinical testing.
J&J's vaccine research has been in focus over the past two years as the company successfully developed a COVID-19 shot. Concerns over a rare side effect, along with manufacturing problems, slowed the vaccine's uptake substantially in the U.S. and Europe.
The pharmaceutical company is also one of a handful of drugmakers in late-stage testing with a vaccine for respiratory syncytial virus, which causes a common infection that each year hospitalizes tens of thousands of young children and older adults. Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline and Moderna are also in Phase 3 trials, as is Bavarian Nordic.
The Danish drugmaker sells vaccines for rabies, smallpox and tick-borne encephalitis, and is developing a shot for COVID-19.