Johnson & Johnson
's (JNJ) Janssen Biotech, Inc. recently entered into a licensing
agreement with Astellas Pharma Inc. for the latter's Janus kinase
(JAK) inhibitor, ASP015K. The collaboration is for the global
(excluding Japan) development and commercialization of the
ASP015K is being developed for the once daily oral treatment of
moderate-to-severe rheumatoid arthritis - three phase IIb studies
are ongoing in the US/Europe and Japan. Results from a 6-week
phase IIa proof of concept study conducted in psoriasis patients
showed that ASP015K was well tolerated. Moreover, dose-dependent
improvements in Psoriasis Areas Severity Index (PASI) change from
baseline were observed.
Terms of the Deal
Per the terms of the agreement, Janssen will develop and
commercialize ASP015K across the world, excluding Japan, for
immune-mediated inflammatory diseases. Besides making an upfront
payment of $65 million to Astellas, Janssen will make payments up
to $880 million on the achievement of development and
commercialization milestones. Janssen will also pay double-digit
royalty to Astellas on sales.
While Astellas is responsible for the completion of the ongoing
phase IIb studies, future development, clinical and regulatory
activities will be handled by Janssen in its territories. Astellas
will remain responsible for all these activities in Japan.
Through this deal, Astellas is gaining a suitable partner in
Johnson & Johnson, which has a strong presence in the
autoimmune disease market. The autoimmune disease market represents
huge commercial potential and a once-daily oral formulation would
provide patients with a convenient treatment option.
Meanwhile, Johnson & Johnson is looking to strengthen its
presence further in the autoimmune disease market. Besides
collaborating for the development of ASP015K, the company has a
collaboration agreement with
) for sirukumab. Sirukumab is in a phase III program for rheumatoid
arthritis in adults. Johnson & Johnson has two products in its
portfolio for rheumatoid arthritis - Remicade and Simponi.
We currently have a Neutral recommendation on Johnson &
Johnson, which carries a Zacks #2 Rank (short-term 'Buy'
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