J&J to buy Momenta Pharmaceuticals for $6.5B

The drugmaker emphasized the full global rights it would acquire to Momenta’s lead asset, nipocalimab, which it is developing for several autoantibody-driven diseases and that in certain indications could have peak sales of more than $1 billion.

Drugmaker Johnson & Johnson plans to spend a hefty sum to acquire a company focused on developing drugs for certain autoimmune diseases.

New Brunswick, New Jersey-based J&J said Wednesday that it would acquire Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Momenta Pharmaceuticals for $6.5 billion. Shares of Momenta rose 69% on the Nasdaq after the announcement.

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The biotech company’s lead asset is nipocalimab, which according to its pipeline page is in Phase III development for warm autoimmune hemolytic anemia, as well as Phase II development for hemolytic disease of fetus and newborn and myasthenia gravis. Other drug candidates in Momenta’s pipeline include M254, which is in Phase II development for immune thrombocytopenic purpura and Phase I development for chronic inflammatory polyneuropathy, and M239, in Phase I development. Also in Phase III development is M710, a biosimilar of Regeneron Pharmaceuticals’ Eylea (aflibercept), used to treat age-related macular degeneration, macular edema and diabetic retinopathy. The company additionally has multiple assets in preclinical development.

J&J said that the acquisition of full global rights to nipocalimab would allow it to significantly expand its base of patients through pursuit of autoimmune conditions, and in particular autoantibody-driven disease. The drugmaker forecasts that some indications for nipocalimab could have peak-year sales in excess of $1 billion.

“This acquisition broadens Janssen’s leadership in autoimmune diseases and provides us with a major catalyst for sustained growth,” J&J Executive Vice President Jennifer Taubert said in a statement. “Autoantibody-driven diseases are often serious, and patients are underserved by current treatment options.”

The deal marks the second multibillion-dollar acquisition by a large pharmaceutical company of a smaller biotech firm this week. On Monday, French drugmaker Sanofi said it would acquire Principia Biopharma, a South San Francisco, California-based company from which it had already in-licensed a drug for treating multiple sclerosis, for $3.7 billion. The drug, along with others in Principia’s pipeline, belongs to a class of small-molecule therapeutics known as BTK inhibitors.

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