J&J Joins Hot Immunology Target With $850 Million Proteologix Acquisition - MedCity News - Latest Global News

J&J Joins Hot Immunology Target With $850 Million Proteologix Acquisition – MedCity News

Johnson & Johnson is strengthening its pipeline of immunology and inflammatory drugs with the acquisition of Proteologix, a startup whose most advanced program is poised for Phase 1 testing in asthma and atopic dermatitis.

Under terms of the deal announced Thursday, J&J will pay $850 million in cash. San Carlos, California-based Proteologix could receive more depending on the progress of its drug candidates, but no details on milestones were disclosed.

Proteologix’s lead product, PX128, is a bispecific antibody that targets IL-13 and TSLP. IL-13 is a signaling protein that is already targeted by several drugs for atopic dermatitis, including the blockbuster drug Dupixent from Sanofi/Regeneron Pharmaceuticals. PX128’s targeting of IL-13 and TSLP is more comparable to Sanofi’s experimental drug lunsekimab, a bispecific antibody that also targets both targets. Lunsekimab is in Phase 2 testing in asthma.

TSLP’s role in inflammation has made it an attractive target for drug discovery. A growing number of biopharma companies are closing deals for antibodies that target TSLP, including Uniquity Bio, a Blackstone Life Sciences-backed startup that emerged from stealth this week with a Phase 1-ready antibody licensed from Merck. Other companies with clinical-stage TSLP programs include GSK and Upstream Bio.

PX128 is ready for use in the clinic, where J&J plans to test it in moderate to severe atopic dermatitis, also known as eczema, and moderate to severe asthma. A second Proteologix drug, PX130, targets IL-13 and IL-22. This bispecific antibody is in preclinical development for moderate to severe atopic dermatitis. Because both atopic dermatitis and asthma rely on multiple disease-causing pathways, J&J believes that a drug that targets more than one pathway offers the potential for improved efficacy and remission rates. In a prepared statement, David Lee, head of global immunology therapeutics at Johnson & Johnson Innovative Medicine, said 70% of the more than 100 million adults with atopic dermatitis worldwide do not achieve remission with standard therapies. He added that these drugs either target a single pathway and have limited efficacy or are generally immunosuppressive, which poses an increased safety risk.

“We see an opportunity for optimal disease efficacy for both PX128 and PX130 because each bispecific antibody targets two different combinations of disease-driving pathways that mediate skin inflammation in heterogeneous subpopulations [atopic dermatitis] patients,” Lee said.

The J&J immunology pipeline already has the antibody drug candidate JNJ-4703, which is in mid-stage clinical development for atopic dermatitis and rheumatoid arthritis. In addition to the two most advanced Proteologix programs, the startup is developing additional bispecific antibody programs for unspecified diseases.

Proteologix gives J&J more shots on goal after an earlier miss due to inflammatory skin disease. In 2020, pharmaceutical giant XBiotech paid $750 million for the rights to birmekimab, an IL-1alpha-targeting antibody that was in mid-stage clinical development for atopic dermatitis and hidrandentis suppurativa. After the drug released disappointing clinical data in 2022, J&J decided to stop developing the drug.

J&J expects to complete the Proteologix acquisition by the middle of this year.

Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

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