This $850M Biotech Deal Could Disrupt the Atopic Dermatitis Market

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In a strategic move to strengthen its dermatology portfolio, pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson has agreed to acquire Proteologix, a privately-held biotech developing bispecific antibody therapies for inflammatory skin diseases like atopic dermatitis. The $850 million all-cash deal gives J&J access to promising clinical and preclinical stage assets.

The crown jewel of the acquisition is Proteologix’s lead candidate PX128, a Phase 1-ready bispecific antibody targeting two key drivers of atopic dermatitis and asthma – interleukin-13 (IL-13) and thymic stromal lymphopoietin (TSLP). By simultaneously blocking these complementary inflammatory pathways, PX128 could provide a substantial efficacy boost over current monospecific antibody treatments.

Proteologix’s second asset, the preclinical bispecific PX130, goes after IL-13 and IL-22 for the treatment of moderate to severe atopic dermatitis. J&J cited the differentiated design of these dual-acting antibodies, highlighting their potential for infrequent, convenient dosing that could improve adherence.

The acquisition aligns with J&J’s strategic focus on building an immunology pipeline centered around bispecific antibodies for improved disease control across a range of inflammatory conditions.

Atopic dermatitis, a chronic inflammatory skin disease, impacts over 100 million adults worldwide, representing a massive market opportunity. However, up to 70% of patients fail to achieve remission on standard systemic treatments, underscoring a significant unmet need.

“We see an opportunity for best-in-disease efficacy for both PX128 and PX130,” said David Lee, global immunology therapeutic area head at J&J. The company believes the bispecifics could be game-changers for underserved patient subgroups by more comprehensively targeting the heterogenous drivers of atopic dermatitis.

The deal comes on the heels of positive Phase 3 data from Eli Lilly’s IL-13 antibody lebrikizumab in atopic dermatitis. After manufacturing setbacks, Lilly resubmitted its lebrikizumab filing in April and anticipates a decision later this year, setting up a potential commercial clash with J&J’s dual-acting antibodies down the road.

Proteologix, based in California, will be eligible for additional milestone payments on top of the $850 million upfront cash paid by J&J. The transaction, expected to close in mid-2024 pending regulatory approval, will fold in Proteologix’s other preclinical bispecific antibody programs focused on autoimmune diseases and cancer.

For J&J, the deal provides a promising path toward next-generation, differentiated therapies for the significant population of atopic dermatitis patients struggling with existing treatment options. Proteologix’s dual-acting bispecific antibodies represent potentially transformative medicines for a disease area that has proven stubbornly difficult to treat.

The acquisition reinforces J&J’s commitment to immunology and dermatology while bolstering its pipeline with innovative, clinically advanced assets that could drive future growth. As the atopic dermatitis market heats up, J&J has made a preemptive strike to secure a competitive edge through its newest biotech addition.

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