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J&J buys stake in vaccines firm Crucell

Published on 29/09/09 at 01:29pm

Johnson & Johnson has acquired an 18% stake in Netherlands-based vaccines firm Crucell, and the two companies will work together on developing monoclonal antibodies and vaccines for flu and other diseases.

The company has paid out 302 million euros ($442 million) in equity and investment in Crucell in order to gain a foothold in the growing vaccines sector. J&J's subsidiary Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals will work directly with Crucell.

Vaccines is one of the most dynamic areas in the industry, and could produce some of the most exciting advances in medicine in the next decade, as well as potential for growing sales.

J&J and Crucell's partnership will focus on the development of a monoclonal antibody treatment for influenza -dubbed 'flu-mAb' - which would be the first of its kind.

The product would target the part of the virus that remains unchanged, allowing it to be a 'universal' flu vaccine, which would not have to be adapted to new strains emerging each year, as at present.

UK-based vaccines company Acambis is another company working on a universal flu vaccine, and produced promising phase I trial results last year. If such a product successfully developed and approved, it could transform the market.

The J&J and Crucell partnership will also cover mabs and/or vaccines targeted against up to three other infectious and non-infectious disease targets.

J&J's move comes just weeks after Crucell won a US National Institutes of Health (NIH) contract to develop monoclonal antibodies for the treatment of seasonal and pandemic influenza.

The contract provides funding of up to $40.7 million, with potential for a further $28.4 million, depending on how the research progresses.

"Despite significant advances in prevention and treatment, influenza remains a major health threat, and each year, vaccines must be formulated to address the current influenza strain," said Paul Stoffels, global head of Pharmaceuticals Research and Development at Johnson & Johnson.

"A universal antibody or vaccine that protects against a broad range of strains would be an important advance in helping doctors and nurses manage the annual influenza season and control acute epidemic and pandemic outbreaks.

"We are excited about this collaboration with Crucell because it provides us access to antibody and vaccine know-how and technology and expands our ability to offer preventive health care solutions for unmet medical needs."

Crucell's chief executive Ronald Brus said: "Crucell's innovative technologies for the discovery, development and manufacture of antibody products and vaccines provide avenues to develop much-needed medical solutions for global health threats.

"We are delighted that this collaboration with Johnson & Johnson will strengthen and facilitate our efforts to bring innovation to global health. It provides an avenue to accelerate Crucell's existing 'flu-mAb' programme, which has already demonstrated the potential to deliver an antibody product for the prevention and treatment of any type of influenza strain."


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