In anticipation of the 33rd annual J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference, Johnson & Johnson will be announcing 21 new collaborations covering experimental disease treatments, medical devices and consumer health products. The healthcare giant has partnered with China-based Chia Tai Tianqing Pharmaceutical Group, to develop a combination therapy to treat patients with hepatitis B.
Johnson & Johnson has also set up a collaboration with Aelix Therapeutics with a focus on developing an HIV vaccine. The company contributed Series A financing to the Spanish biotech, to support development costs for the therapeutic vaccine.
Johnson & Johnson will also enter into a joint venture with ViiV Healthcare to develop better treatment options for patients with HIV, including a long-acting injectable drug designed to replace the pills currently used to manage the disease. The HIV injectable treatment would require only six injections per year.
ViiV Healthcare was created as a joint venture between GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer in 2009 as a stand-alone company focused on developing HIV therapies. GlaxoSmithKline released a statement last week announcing that their long-acting combination therapy of rilpivirine (RPV LA) and cabotegravir (CAB LA) will be tested in a Phase III clinical trial set to start in mid-2016.
The new medical device deals made by Johnson & Johnson include novel surgical devices – including technologies used to resect tumors – along with devices used to treat atrial fibrillation. Its consumer health offerings have been expanded to include a partnership with the University of Heidelberg in Germany on hair growth products, dental care techniques and new technologies for skin care.
Perhaps the most significant of Johnson & Johnson’s new collaborations is its pact with Chia Tai Tianqing Pharmaceutical Group (CTTQ), a subsidiary of Sino Biopharma. This Chinese drugmaker has set its sights on using research into immune modulating agents to develop a cocktail of therapies that will provide a cure for hepatitis B.
“What we know from HIV and HCV, with chronic viruses, you need a combination therapy,” said Lawrence Blatt, infectious disease chief of Johnson & Johnson. “We’re trying to explore direct antivirals, block the life cycle of the virus as well as activating the immune system, so it’s a dual approach, immunological and antiviral. We want to marry those two into a functional cure.”
Blatt’s previous hepatitis C-focused biotech company, Alios, was acquired by Johnson & Johnson last year for $1.75 billion. “We are looking for the best science no matter where it is,” said Blatt. According to Robert Urban, Boston deals chief for Johnson & Johnson, the company’s four main deal centers in London, Boston, San Francisco and Shanghai, make the drugmaker well-positioned to acquire the best technologies from around the globe, in order to further the company’s research strategy.
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