J&J Innovation shows off its new summer lineup of biotech deals

J&J CSO Paul Stoffels

When Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) Innovation debuted about a year ago, R&D chief Paul Stoffels promised to build an interconnected, global operation that would sink some deep roots into the world's busiest biotech hubs. On Thursday, the group showed off just how far it had come in a short time, highlighting a slate of a dozen new deals, ranging from fresh research collaborations to new investments in a range of upstart drug and device developers--all aimed at putting the multinational pharma giant on the cutting edge of new product development.

These new pacts--which bring the tally to 59 since the innovation centers got started last year--illustrate the impressive range of interests J&J has, as well as the eagerness with which it is linking up with top scientists and entrepreneurs around the world.

A couple of these deals have already been discussed. There was an investment as well as a collaboration with Aduro BioTech related to prostate cancer, a field it already has a major stake in. J&J highlighted its A round investment in Padlock, which was recently spun out of Scripps with the help of Atlas Venture to hunt down new therapies targeting the protein arginine deiminases, which it describes as a new class of enzymes that can play a role in autoimmunity and epigenetics.

But there were also new pacts to review, including its decision to join a syndicate backing Navitor Pharmaceuticals, a biotech company which you can read more about here. Its other deals include these announcements:

  • Energesis Pharmaceuticals, a company working on the formation of brown fat, a new field in metabolism, will now collaborate with J&J on burning stored fat and lowering insulin resistance.
  • There's also a collaboration with Minerva Neurosciences on sleep drugs, a project being handled out of the London office. J&J and Minerva will be working on the development of an orexin-2 antagonist, MIN-202. "The program will focus on the treatment of patients with primary and secondary insomnia and potentially other related neuropsychiatric disorders," the company said in a statement.
  • There's an investment in Ascelegen from the J&J Development arm as well as Innovation, fueling work on growth factor-related therapies for heart failure. Like Padlock, it's another Atlas company that J&J is getting close to.
  • And there's an academic collaboration with the University of Manchester in the U.K. as well as a lymphoma tie-up with Weill Cornell Medical College.

Equity investments from J&J may run anywhere from the hundreds of thousands of dollars into the tens of millions, says Robert Urban, who runs J&J Innovation's Boston office on Kendall Square, in the heart of one of the busiest biotech hubs in the world. But it's not just about investing cash. J&J is offering nondilutive research support and global connections. If the chemistry for a project's new project is best done in China, he says, J&J can arrange that. 

"We're trying to do this type of thing across the full spectrum that J&J is working in," Urban tells FierceBiotech. And the Boston office can instantly link up with colleagues in London, San Francisco and Shanghai, which is the last of the four big locations J&J mapped out, along with a number of key hubs in Israel and other key areas for R&D.

"The broad variety of the collaborations we are announcing today, and the unique ways in which we are working with our collaborators, illustrates our strong commitment to being flexible and creative in our deal making in order to maximize the potential of each individual technology," noted Stoffels. "Our goal is to enrich the life science ecosystem on a global scale by redefining the R&D paradigm."

- read J&J's release