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J&J takes option on Theravance’s JAK drug in $1bn deal

TD-1473 has potential treating ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s and IBD patients

J&J

Johnson & Johnson is paying $100m upfront for opt-in rights to a JAK inhibitor developed by Theravance, with another $900m in milestones on offer if development goes to plan.

It is the latest big pharma company to make a play in the market for JAK inhibitors used for immunological diseases, which is heating up as new entrants try to chase down market leaders Pfizer and Eli Lilly. In the next few years the market is estimated to swell to several billions of dollars a year as JAK-targeting drugs roll out for indications like rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.

Seeking a piece of that opportunity, J&J is licensing TD-1473, a pan-JAK inhibitor due to enter mid-stage testing in ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s later this year. The terms of the deal strike a cautious note however; J&J has negotiated exclusive commercial rights to the drug outside the US and will share rights in the US with Theravance, but will wait for the results of the trials before deciding whether to opt in. If it chooses to go ahead that will prompt another $200m payment.

Hedging the bets could be a good move. J&J is entering what is looking to be an increasingly crowded JAK field, with Pfizer’s Xeljanz (tofacitinib) approved since 2012 and Lilly becoming the first direct competitor last year when it bagged EU approval for Olumiant (which has been delayed in the US).

AbbVie is shaping up to be the next player with upadacitinib - considered by some analysts to be a best-in-class candidate - but is in a race to market with former partner Galapagos, which is developing filgotinib with new collaborator Gilead.

Despite the competition, J&J says TD-1473 has qualities which could make it a better option for inflammatory bowel disease. It is designed to exert its activity primarily within the GI tract with limited systemic uptake - potentially reducing side effects associated with drugs in the class such as infections, liver damage, increased blood pressure and elevated cholesterol.

“We have been very excited about the potential of TD-1473 to serve as a transformational medicine designed to offer the proven therapeutic activity of JAK inhibitors without the safety concerns associated with systemic JAK exposure," said Theravance’s CEO Rick Winningham, who thinks that this could allow the dose of TD-1743 to be hiked to boost efficacy.

Article by
Phil Taylor

8th February 2018

From: Sales

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