J&J grabs $443M stake in Crucell, inks flu pact

Anxious to grab a leading role in the hot worldwide market for new flu vaccines and antibodies, Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) has agreed to buy an 18 percent stake in the Dutch biotech Crucell for $443.5 million. The two companies have also forged a new pact that will initially concentrate on advancing a universal flu-mAb antibody that can treat and prevent all influenza A strains, including swine and bird flu. And they'll pursue a long-term strategy to develop a universal influenza vaccine as well as monoclonal antibodies and vaccines directed against up to three other infectious and non-infectious disease targets.

"Despite significant advances in prevention and treatment, influenza remains a major health threat, and each year, vaccines must be formulated to address the current influenza strain," said Paul Stoffels, the global head of pharmaceuticals R&D at Johnson & Johnson. "A universal antibody or vaccine that protects against a broad range of strains would be an important advance in helping doctors and nurses manage the annual influenza season and control acute epidemic and pandemic outbreaks."

J&J, though, was not forthcoming on the terms of the development pact. A little more than a month ago, Crucell (CRXL)won a contract with the NIH worth up to $69.1 million to develop new antibodies to treat seasonal and pandemic viruses.

- check out the press release
- read the story from Reuters