Janssen Pharmaceuticals has entered an agreement with Evotec and Harvard University to research drugs to treat the cause of diabetes rather than its symptoms.
Janssen, a division of Johnson & Johnson (J&J), will pay up to $300m in milestones per product developed as part of the programme, in addition to an upfront payment of $8m to be shared between Evotec and Massachusetts-based Harvard.
If any drugs are commercialised, Janssen will also pay royalties on any products sold, with this again shared between Evotec and Harvard.
The deal is an expansion of an existing partnership between Evotec and Harvard, known as the CureBeta research and development programme, and focuses on both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
Co-led by Dr Doug Melton and Dr Cord Dohrmann, CureBeta was established by Harvard, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), and Evotec in 2011 to bring industry and academia together to better identify and develop targets that could cause the regeneration of insulin-producing beta cells.
People with diabetes either have a lack of or malfunction of these cells, and triggering a regrowth could herald a new era in diabetes treatments that focus on the cause of the condition rather than its related effects, such as increased levels of blood sugar.
The collaboration so far has yielded several potential targets and a portfolio of small molecules and biologics, with Janssen now stepping in to provide research support as well as expertise in both pharmaceutical development and marketing.
"As the funding and licensing landscape has evolved in the pharmaceutical industry, we have evolved to identify new development strategies for our research assets,” said Isaac Kohlberg, Harvard's chief technology development officer and head of its Office of Technology Development.
“This alliance with Janssen Pharmaceuticals represents an important step towards a real solution for the treatment of diabetes."
This deal is just the latest in a line of industry collaborations to research the cause of diabetes.
In February, 2012, Boehringer Ingelhiem announced it was entering a five-year partnership with Technische Universität (TU) in Dresden, Germany, focused on the cause of type 1 diabetes, while Novo Nordisk is teaming up the JDRF (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.