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J&J aiming for above-average growth thanks to stream of blockbusters

US firm enters highly productive R&D phase

J&J

In just four years Johnson & Johnson (J&J) is expecting to have more than 10 new drugs filed or on the market with the potential to earn more than $1bn apiece per year.

The company showcased its pipeline to investors yesterday, with head of R&D William Hait and pharma chairman Joaquin Duato highlighting two late-stage drugs - anti-IL-23 antibody guselkumab for psoriasis and sirukumab, an IL-6 inhibitor for rheumatoid arthritis - that should be approved later this year.

Following on from these are a raft of drugs for cancer, central nervous system diseases and viral diseases that J&J sees as having great potential as it enters what would be the most productive R&D phase in the history of its biopharma division.

Among the highlighted cancer therapies are apalutamide (ARN-509) for pre-metastatic prostate cancer, an anti-androgen drug acquired via a $1bn deal with originator Aragon, an anti-IL3 receptor alpha antibody talacotuzumab for acute myeloid leukaemia (AML), FGFR blocker erdafitinib for solid tumours and PARP inhibitor niraparib - already approved as Zejula for ovarian cancer - for prostate cancer. J&J picked up commercial rights to niraparib (in prostate cancer only) from Tesaro for $500m last year.

Also name-checked in the R&D update was imetelstat for myelofibrosis, which J&J is co-developing with Geron for a number of indications under a $934m deal agreed in 2014. J&J is due to make a decision on the telomerase inhibitor later this year.

In the CNS sector J&J is heading for regulatory filings for esketamine for treatment-resistant depression, an intranasal formulation of the well-known tranquilizer and party drug ketamine. The NMDA antagonist won a breakthrough designation from the FDA last year, and J&J also sees big potential for JNJ-7922 an orexin-2 antagonist that is being developed as an adjunctive therapy for major depressive disorder.

The remaining two would-be blockbusters are both antiviral drugs. Lumicitabine for respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infection was acquired by the company along with Alios BioPharma in 2014 for $1.75bn and has shown promise in clinical trials involving infants with RSV infection, while pimodivir (JNJ-3872) is a drug for influenza A acquired from Vertex.

Analysts said the preponderance of cancer therapies would help J&J meet its objective at growing sales by 5% a year through 2020, ahead of the background market growth by providing insulation against downward pricing pressure.

Article by
Phil Taylor

18th May 2017

From: Sales

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