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J&J to buy Proteologix and its dual-targeting antibody drugs for $850M

Dive Brief:

  • Johnson & Johnson agreed to buy biotechnology startup Proteologix for $850 million in cash, gaining a portfolio of bispecific antibodies the privately held company has been developing for immune diseases.
  • With the acquisition announced Thursday, J&J will obtain rights to PX128, a drug set to enter Phase 1 testing for moderate to severe asthma and atopic dermatitis, more commonly known as eczema. Proteologix also has an antibody called PX130 in preclinical development for moderate to severe eczema.
  • Proteologix investors will have the opportunity to receive an unspecified additional milestone payment, J&J said. The company expects to close the transaction mid-year and said it should not affect previously disclosed guidance for this year’s adjusted earnings per share.

Dive Insight:

The deal highlights the appeal of bispecific antibodies, which have become increasingly popular among drugmakers and combine two ways of combating a disease into one medicine. 

In the case of PX128, the treatment inhibits proteins known as IL-13 and TSLP, which are both involved in inflammation. A number of approved drugs already target one of the proteins, including the IL-13 antagonist Adbry, used to treat eczema, and Tezspire, an asthma drug that blocks TSLP. Sanofi is also developing an eczema drug that targets IL-13 and TLSP, while Uniquity Bio, a well-funded biotech startup, is working on a TLSP antibody for asthma and COPD. 

Both PX128 and PX130 are designed for infrequent dosing, which should offer more convenience for patients, J&J said.

Bispecific antibodies have most often been used for cancer treatment, but developers are increasingly looking for other ways to use them. One biotech startup, Zenas BioPharma, announced this month that it raised $200 million to help support research of its bispecific therapies in multiple sclerosis and lupus.

All told, there are more than 100 bispecific antibodies in clinical development, according to research cited by the Food and Drug Administration. Approved drugs include Hemlibra for hemophilia and Vabysmo for a form of age-related vision loss.

J&J, which sells the dual-targeting multiple myeloma drugs Talvey and Tecvayli, says the Proteologix purchase is part of a larger plan to build a portfolio of “differentiated and complementary bispecifics.” Proteologix comes with other bispecific antibody programs that have the potential to treat a variety of other diseases, the company said. 

The acquisition follows two even larger purchases earlier this year. In January, J&J agreed to buy cancer drug developer Ambrx Biopharma for $2 billion. Then in April, the New Jersey-based drugmaker announced a $13.1 billion deal to take over Shockwave Medical, which makes medical devices that break up calcium deposits in coronary arteries using sound pressure waves.