PPD's in-house biotech pairs up with J&J

X-Chem, a subsidiary of PPD, has signed a deal with Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) to provide its library of molecules to aid in the discovery of new treatments for inflammatory disease.

Under the deal, J&J's Janssen unit will hand over an undisclosed up-front sum, research funding and further milestones tied to success in exchange for exclusive rights to develop and commercialize any new drugs resulting from the collaboration. Janssen will tap the company's proprietary discovery system, which makes use of a diverse library of more than 100 billion molecules, X-Chem said. Each of those molecules is tethered to a DNA tag that essentially logs its history, according to the company, allowing investigators to peer in on a host of chemical reactions and ferret out the best candidate.

The two are focusing on small-molecule treatments that target proteins involved in the inflammatory process, keeping a wide-angle view on the field as they enter the early stages of development.

X-Chem CEO Rick Wagner

"X-Chem's vision is to leverage our powerful lead discovery engine to enable breakthroughs in disease areas with high unmet medical need," CEO Rick Wagner said in a statement. "As we continue to improve our platform's performance, we seek to combine our discovery excellence with the extensive development and commercialization expertise of collaborators such as Janssen, and to help prime their pipeline with innovative products for the treatment of inflammatory diseases."

PPD, long a majority owner, acquired the entirety of X-Chem in September. The CRO first bought a controlling interest in the Waltham, MA-headquartered X-Chem in 2010, a deal that gave it until the fall to decide whether to pick up the rest. The buyout resulted in no changes to day-to-day business at X-Chem, PPD said, and the biotech retained its entire staff and leadership.

With the latest deal, Janssen joins of list of X-Chem collaborators that includes Alexion ($ALXN), Roche ($RHHBY), AstraZeneca ($AZN), Pfizer ($PFE) and Bayer.

- read the statement

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