J&J scoops up another atopic dermatitis antibody in $1.25B Numab rights deal

Not satisfied with just one new immunology deal this month, Johnson & Johnson is plunking down $1.25 billion in cash to scoop up rights to Numab Therapeutics’ phase 2-ready atopic dermatitis bispecific antibody.

The healthcare giant is picking up NM26, which is on the cusp of entering midstage trials. The therapy is currently in development for atopic dermatitis (AD), but J&J has its sights set on other inflammatory skin diseases.

Details of the transaction in a Tuesday release were slim, besides the eye-popping all-cash payment of $1.25 billion to be paid to Numab for global rights to the drug. J&J is not buying the biotech itself—just the drug rights. Closing is expected in the second half of the year.

But Numab investor Novo Holdings said the deal involves the acquisition of Yellow Jersey Therapeutics, a subsidiary of Numab. Yellow Jersey contains all the assets relating to NM26. 

"Our initial investment in Numab was based on our strong conviction in the underlying technology of multi-specific antibodies. The management and the board took the strategic decision to focus the company on NM26, an IL4/IL31 bi-specific antibody for use in auto-immune disease, with atopic dermatitis as the lead indication. This decisiveness paid off, with the program delivering exciting early data in patients leading to the acquisition," Novo Holdings Partner Michael Bauer said in a Tuesday release. 

Numab will continue work on its pipeline, which includes inflammatory assets in preclinical development and a phase 1 therapy for solid tumors. 

NM26 targets the IL-4R alpha subunit (IL-4Rα) and IL-31, which are associated with skin inflammation and itch, respectively. J&J believes the therapy could have wide impact on other diseases driven by these pathways.

“Our investment in differentiated bispecifics is the next chapter in our impactful immunology legacy. It reinforces our commitment to address unmet medical needs by leveraging patient insights and our deep disease expertise,” said Candice Long, worldwide vice president of immunology at J&J, in a Tuesday statement.

This is the second bispecific antibody deal J&J has signed in as many weeks, after the May 16 deal to acquire Proteologix for $850 million. That deal involved a collection of bispecific immunology meds, including one that is poised to enter phase 1. That asset, called PX128, is a bispecific antibody targeting both IL-13 and the IL-2-like cytokine TSLP for patients with AD and severe asthma.

J&J has been on the hunt to bolster its immunology roster after a $750 million bolt-on deal with XBiotech in 2019 failed to deliver. The pharma nixed the asset from that deal, an antibody called bermekimab, after ending development in eczema.

Elsewhere, J&J’s business development team has been busy, acquiring ADC biotech Ambrx for $2 billion in January.