J&J, Polaris pact follows series of pharma/VC combos

Drug giant Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) and the Boston area's Polaris Venture Partners have been working together for months in search of early-stage biotech deals. And Xconomy's Luke Timmerman delves into the dynamics of the arrangement in an article this morning, showing how the pharma giant and leading VC firm have combined or plan to combine resources to get young biotechs off the ground.

As the partners tell Timmerman, they've looked at about 20 deals and so far pulled the trigger on none. Yet the drugmaker wants to contribute funding and extensive research capabilities from its labs to new companies and Polaris has committed to lending its close ties with entrepreneurial scientists at Harvard and MIT as well as investment dollars. The collaboration was announced in January, and it could be just a matter of time before the partners team up on an exciting deal.

In recent years, the combo of pharma groups and venture firms has been a popular remedy for the early-stage R&D ills facing both drugmakers and cash-hungry biotech supporters. With its own pipeline in need of new drug candidates, for instance, Merck ($MRK) has fueled at least a couple of venture funds recently and plans further efforts to reach out to external partners. And Atlas Venture revealed its collaboration with Shire Human Genetic Therapies in December to scout for early-stage opportunities, particularly in the rare disease field.

"As a company that's dependent in part on external innovation, we want to make sure there's a good healthy innovation ecosystem out there, and this is one way we can contribute to it," Michael Elliott, an entrepreneur-in-residence with J&J's Janssen Pharmaceuticals, told Timmerman.

- get more in Xconomy's article