Johnson & Johnson is turning on the tap for Pipeline Therapeutics in a $50 million upfront licensing deal for an oral multiple sclerosis drug that could net the small biotech up to $1 billion down the line.
J&J’s Janssen Pharmaceutica NV unit is getting in on a wave of renewed interest in central nervous system disorders with the deal, announced Monday morning. Janssen will get access to Pipeline’s muscarinic M1 receptor antagonist PIPE-307, which has so far wrapped two phase 1 trials in healthy patients and has been cleared for clinical development in relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS) patients.
Janssen will receive a worldwide license to PIPE-307 for research, development and commercialization in all potential indications worldwide. Pipeline, however, will retain the right to advance the therapy through the mid-stage RRMS trial, according to the release.
Pipeline will get the $50 million straight up, plus a separate $25 million equity payment from Johnson & Johnson Innovation, or JJDC Inc., J&J’s venture capital arm. Another $25 million in equity payments from existing investors has been added to the bank, too. Further down the line, Pipeline could be eligible for as much as $1 billion in clinical, regulatory and commercial milestones, plus royalties if PIPE-307 is successful. If Pipeline opts for the co-development options, the payments could increase further.
Big Pharmas like Pfizer and AbbVie revisited the possibilities in CNS disorders with high-value deals last year. The former’s $11.6 billion acquisition of Biohaven for its migraine portfolio was one of the largest of 2022. AbbVie, meanwhile, picked up Syndesi Therapeutics for an early-stage Alzheimer’s disease therapy and depression med.
The drug target at the center of the Pipeline deal—the muscarinic M1 receptor—has also been getting buzz lately as Karuna Therapeutics edges closer to an FDA decision for the schizophrenia therapy KarXT.
Pipeline also has PIPE-791 in preclinical development for myelin restoration and neuro-inflammation.