Janssen has acquired immunology rights to Astellas' oral Janus Kinase (JAK) inhibitor ASP015K, which has completed phase IIa trials for plaque psoriasis and is currently in phase IIb for rheumatoid arthritis.
The deal expands Janssen's global immunology portfolio, which already includes three injectable treatments, the blockbuster anti-TNF Remicade, its follow-up Simponi, and Stelara.
"Janssen has a heritage of innovation and delivering transformative medicines to address unmet needs in immunologic diseases," said Susan Dillon, global therapeutic area head, immunology, Janssen Research & Development.
"We are committed to expanding the portfolio of new treatments for patients with serious immune-mediated diseases and are excited to add Astellas' ASP015K to our pipeline."
Under the terms of the agreement Janssen will have global rights to develop and commercialise ASP015K, barring Japan, where Tokyo-headquartered Astellas will hold on to it.
Financial details were not revealed, but Janssen will make an upfront payment, followed by milestone and royalty payments, and then take over development, clinical and regulatory filing activities once Astellas completes its trial of ASP015K in rheumatoid arthritis.
But the agreement only covers ASP015K as an oral treatment for immune-mediated inflammatory diseases.
Astellas will continue its in-house development of the drug for the prevention of organ transplant rejection, where the clinical programme has reached phase II.
Meanwhile, Pfizer's tofacitinib is on-track to become the first JAK inhibitor to reach the market for rheumatoid arthritis.
It has already been filed for approval in Europe, Japan and the US, and the FDA is due to deliver a verdict on the marketing application by November 21, 2012.