J&J bets $750m that bermekimab has the X factor

Snippets

When mulling Johnson &Johnson’s deal for XBiotech’s failed cancer project Xilonix, J&J shareholders might find themselves wondering whether the decimal point is in the wrong place. The company's Janssen unit has paid $750m to acquire all rights to the anti-IL-1α MAb, which under its generic name bermekimab is being repurposed as a therapy for dermatological conditions; XBiotech is up 125% pre-market. This is a pretty vast sum for an asset whose phase II trials – one in hidradenitis suppurativa and another in eczema – are not going to yield top-line data for nearly a year. XBiotech will conduct these trials and produce the antibody for an extra fee, and could also get up to $600m in potential milestone payments. For this steep price J&J has at least guarded against competition: the agreement precludes XBiotech from pursuing any more anti-IL-1α drugs in the field of dermatology. XBiotech does plan to kick off clinical development of a next generation anti-IL-1α therapeutic in other fields, however, and believes this mechanism could be of use in heart disease, stroke, rheumatology or gastrointestinal diseases. Until this development gets underway, it has a phase II-stage antibiotic, 514G3, on which it can spend its new fortune.

Ongoing trials of bermekimab 
Status Trial details  N Completion date
Phase II Placebo-controlled US and EU trial in hidradenitis suppurativa  150 Sep 2020
Phase II Placebo-controlled trial in moderate to severe atopic dermatitis 90 Jul 2020
Phase II European trial in systemic sclerosis - sponsored by the Hellenic Institute for the Study of Sepsis 20 Feb 2021
Phase I US trial of bermekimab plus Onivyde and 5-FU in pancreatic cancer with cachexia - co-sponsored by Ipsen 16 Dec 2019
Source: EvaluatePharma.

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