J&J grabs Genmab's promising leukemia antibody in $1.1B deal

Johnson & Johnson isn't known for doing a lot of deals. But when the deal team moves, they do it decisively. That was the case today as J&J ($JNJ) finalized a pact to in-license a promising antibody from Genmab, taking an $80 million equity stake in the Danish biotech alongside a $55 million upfront. The total deal, including potential milestones, hits $1.1 billion.

The object of J&J's commitment is daratumumab, a CD38 antibody in development for multiple myeloma. The big pharma subsidiary Janssen now has the global rights to the program along with a backup antibody. Moving ahead, J&J will cover all development costs, including the bills for two Phase I/II studies currently under way.

Daratumumab targets the CD38 molecule found on multiple myeloma cells, proving promising in preclinical work for a range of hematological cells. And analysts were impressed by the package Genmab won for the program, spurring a 25% spike in Genmab's share price.

"Much had been anticipated from a licensing deal for daratumumab and we believe this deal has more than met the expectation," Nomura Code analyst Samir Devani noted, according to Bloomberg.

A little more than a month ago Janssen signed up for an antibody discovery partnership with Genmab, one of several high-profile pacts it has inked with the likes of GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) and Roche ($RHHBY). Daratumumab was the only unpartnered program in its pipeline of development-stage mAbs. The European company struck a deal last year to use Seattle Genetics' ($SGEN) hot antibody-drug conjugate technology. 

"We are very pleased to partner with Janssen on another Genmab innovation and look forward to working with them to accelerate the development of daratumumab and to maximize the value of this product," said CEO Jan van de Winkel.

- here's the press release on the deal
- read the Bloomberg report

Special Report: Genmab and Novartis - Top 20 biotech licensing deals in H1 2012

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