Johnson & Johnson (J&J) has been talking about the benefits of its external R&D collaboration strategy for some time, and now has some numbers to back it up.
Since setting up its partnering network three years ago - built around four regional innovation centres and eight incubators allowing it to get closer to researchers in academic hot spots - the company has forged more than 300 collaborations.
The latest crop of 15 new deals has just been revealed and includes a collaboration and option agreement with Bird Rock Bio, which has a cannabinoid receptor 1 (CB1) targeting antibody called namacizumab in phase I testing as a potential treatment for non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH).
NASH is a form of liver disease which currently has no approved therapies and is becoming increasingly common on the back of rising rates of obesity and diabetes, with analysts predicting it could become a $35-40bn market by 2025.
CB1 is a promising drug target due to its involvement in the key mechanisms of NASH, according to J&J, which says it could also be a valid target in the treatment of diabetic kidney disease - another potentially huge market.
Meanwhile, other new deals include a project with Amorsa Therapeutics to develop ketamine analogues for treatment-resistant depression, developing RNA-based therapies for infectious diseases and cancer with Synthetic Genomics, a cataract treatment effort with the University of Massachusetts and the development of new therapeutics for treatment-resistant prostate cancer with Weill Cornell Medicine. A full list of the new projects is available here.
J&J's innovation centres - which are based in California, Massachusetts, the UK and China - employ science and technology experts and have flexible deal-making capabilities, backed up with venture capital funding from J&J's own investment fund JJDC.
The network has been spearheaded by J&J's chief scientific officer Paul Stoffels, who insists that it is important for pharma companies to "get close to where the innovation is happening". Historically, J&J has sourced around half its R&D projects externally, but has steadily been pushing that proportion higher.
Going through the numbers, in three years J&J has signed more than 230 partnerships with life sciences companies, with more than 200 companies operating in its incubator locations (JLABS) that have yielded 33 collaborations. JJDC currently has active investments in more than 100 companies.
"We are committed to identifying and advancing novel solutions in areas of significant need and creating customised deal structures with innovators in an effort to accelerate products to market," commented Stoffels.