Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) is buying into a novel academic-biotech collaboration built around a portfolio of regenerative diabetes treatments put together in the lab of Harvard scientist Douglas Melton. In exchange for a modest $8 million upfront and the promise of up to $300 million in milestones per program, J&J's Janssen R&D division will get an exclusive shot at the small molecules and biologics in the portfolio, which hold the potential to regenerate insulin-producing beta cells. Harvard will share any windfall with Evotec, which also gets some research support for its work on the CureBeta program.
In the first stage of the collaboration, Harvard, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the German biotech Evotec worked on new assays and tools for regenerating beta cells. Now J&J will weigh in with its research expertise as well as its marketing know-how – provided any of these treatments make it to the market.
The addition of a Big Pharma partner completes the picture for an ambitious alliance of academia, a biotech and a marketing giant. A slate of Big Pharma companies have been setting up early-stage translational research operations in alliance with university investigators, part of the new "open ecosystem" trend in R&D that has attracted considerable attention in the industry. And diabetes remains a challenging field with huge potential for any newly approved products.
"We have not only achieved our scientific goals of creating a superior beta cell drug discovery platform and generating a deep pipeline of novel and exciting targets, but we have also established a new model of collaboration between academia and industry that has proven highly efficient and effective in accelerating innovative scientific development," said Dr. Cord Dohrmann, the CSO at Evotec. "Janssen Pharmaceuticals perfectly complements this effort, bringing in world-leading pharmaceutical development expertise as well as the necessary resources to execute on our mission to produce first-in-class therapeutics designed to restore beta cell mass and function."
- here's the press release