Johnson & Johnson sets new standard for hep B dealmaking

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Data from eight patients were seemingly enough for Johnson & Johnson to part with $250m today for ARO-HBV, Arrowhead Pharmaceuticals’s RNAi project for hepatitis B. The New Jersey-based big pharma signed over $175m in cash and made a $75m investment in exchange for the project plus three additional RNAi therapeutics to be named later. The deal is hugely backend-loaded – it includes $3.5bn of milestones – perhaps suggesting that J&J might not have all that much faith in the asset; this is likely why Arrowhead's shares were down 12% in early trading today. EvaluatePharma’s consensus of sellside analysts credits Arrowhead with $369m in royalties from ARO-ABV sales, but no firm sales forecasts exist. The data so far suggest that ARO-HBV can suppress serum hepatitis B surface antigen, and Arrowhead expects to report results from more patients at the AASLD meeting in November, perhaps giving J&J an incentive to sign now (Looking for new mechanisms to cure hepatitis B, September 13, 2018). Arrowhead’s rival Arbutus Biopharma now has a figure to strive for in its partnering talks. Six-week data from ARB-1467 will be closely watched to see how they match up.

Selected mid-stage novel hep B projects
Project Company Mechanism of action Ongoing trial(s) Primary completion
ARO-HBV Arrowhead Hep B polymerase RNAi therapeutic NCT03365947 Reported
ARB-1467 Arbutus Biopharma Hep B polymerase RNAi therapeutic Ascending dose study; no trial ID End 2018
Inarigivir Spring Bank/ Gilead RIG1 agonist NCT03434353, NCT02751996 End 2018
REP 2139 Replicor Hep B surface antigen inhibitor NCT02565719 Sep 2018
REP 2165 Replicor Hep B surface antigen inhibitor NCT02565719 Sep 2018
IONIS-HBV-LRx Ionis/Glaxosmithkline HBV ligand conjugated antisense NCT03020745 Nov 2018
IONIS-HBVRx Ionis/Glaxosmithkline HBV antisense NCT03020745, NCT02981602 Nov 2018, Dec 2018
ABI-H0731 Assembly Biosciences Capsid assembly modulator NCT03576066, NCT03577171 Mar 2019, Apr 2019
GS-9688 Gilead Sciences TLR 8 agonist NCT03491553, NCT03615066 Apr 2019, Oct 2019
JNJ-6379 Johnson & Johnson Capsid assembly modulator NCT03361956 Oct 2019
Myrcludex B Myr Pharma/ Hepatera Viral entry inhibitor NCT02888106 Dec 2019
Source: EvaluatePharma.

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