|R&D chief Paul Stoffels|
Change: Up 6.8%
As a % of revenue: 11%
Chief Scientific Officer: Paul Stoffels
Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) wasn't Bob Duggan's top choice for a partner on ibrutinib. The CEO of Pharmacyclics ($PCYC) felt that there were other players at the bargaining table with a much better track record at developing cancer drugs. But the company's team, led by eager R&D chief Paul Stoffels, was impossible to ignore. So was their near-$1 billion deal to partner on a drug that was to go on to be approved as Imbruvica, picking up three breakthrough drug designations from the FDA. And Duggan is now gleefully fond of saying how glad he was that he went with the J&J offer.
When J&J identifies something it wants, few Big Pharma companies are as aggressive at getting it. So it's no surprise that when a number of rivals are putting the brakes on R&D budgets or capping costs, J&J is stepping on the gas.
It's now in the finishing stages of completing its fourth global deals team in Shanghai, which will be linked up with business development groups in London, Boston and San Francisco--along with some satellites--via online conferences.
These teams are mostly focused on early-stage deals, but J&J has established a reputation for successfully executing billion-dollar deals for top programs. That rep is being built on its $1 billion buyout of Cougar Biotech, which delivered Zytiga, and more recently was enhanced with its more recent $1 billion deal to buy Aragon and a possible combo drug that can be used with Zytiga--ARN-509--to build a more effective therapeutic for castration-resistant prostate cancer.
J&J's oncology pipeline boasts another breakthrough designation for daratumumab, a CD-38 targeting therapy for multiple myeloma. That's another program brought in from partners, in this case Genmab, which inked a $1.1 billion deal with the pharma giant. Daratumumab has been tapped by J&J as one of its top experimental drugs, along with sirukumab and guselkumab for immune mediated diseases--which just delivered positive data from a mid-stage study. The company also plans to swiftly advance its antidepressant esketamine, a version of ketamine. All of those drugs, along with a combo treatment for hepatitis C, are being positioned for approvals in the 2014-2017 time frame.
Impressive as it all sounds, the approval last year of Imbruvica as well as the diabetes drug Invokana (canagliflozin, in a crowded field) and simeprevir for hep C highlighted an issue for J&J. While the company may have a big pipeline overall, its late-stage pipeline is considered to be rather thin. So when Evaluate Pharma recently listed the top prospective drug launches for 2014, J&J didn't make the list.
The mark of any successful Big Pharma R&D group is a steady stream of major new approvals. That's a tall order, though. For J&J, they have to be hoping that they're taking a short breather between blockbuster advances.
Special Reports: Biopharma's Top R&D Spenders of 2012 - Johnson & Johnson | 2013's 25 most influential people in biopharma - Paul Stoffels
J&J, Pharmacyclics and the future of Big Pharma dealmaking
J&J makes an R&D splash with $42M venture play, biotech collaborations
J&J wins FDA panel blessing for hep C blockbuster hopeful