Johnson & Johnson has revealed that once its acquisition of Actelion is concluded, it will build the business to one which spans the whole value chain from drug discovery to commercialization and with special focus on pulmonary arterial hypertension. This is according to the executive who is expected to lead the nut after the deal closes, Jane Griffiths.
Earlier in January the U.S. pharmaceutical giant agreed to purchase Actelion Ltd for sums amounting to $30 billion. The deal which is expected to be concluded on Friday will see the Switzerland-based firm’s unit which deals in early R&D spun out into an independent firm. Johnson & Johnson will in turn benefit from getting new drugs which will help boost its rare-disease therapies portfolio as its blockbuster drug, Remicade, encounters new competition.
Pulmonary arterial hypertension drugs
Currently, Actelion has five pulmonary arterial hypertension drugs in the market as well as a gel that is used to treat a rare kind of skin cancer. Actelion also has a drug that is used to treat Gaucher disease, a rare genetic disease. Besides the Actelion drugs that are already being sold, Johnson & Johnson will also purchase various research programs that are already in the late stages.
Janssen, the pharmaceutical arm of Johnson & Johnson, is divided into 5 units each of which focusses on a particular area of a disease. According to Ms. Griffiths, Actelion will be the sixth unit and will concentrate on pulmonary arterial hypertension, a rare disease of the artery which leads to difficulties in breathing. The various units act like stand-alone pharmaceutical companies since they undertake activities ranging from early-stage R&D to commercialization. Griffiths who is at the moment the chairman of Janssen’s business in Africa, Middle East and Europe revealed that the same structure would be applied to Actelion.
While in the beginning the new division will only have drugs that are already being sold and those that are in the late stages of research and development, Griffiths intends to add drug discovery as well early-stage research and development operations also.
“The [drug] discovery people have not come across, but we have some people with deep knowledge of PAH that can act as a nucleus. Or we may need to augment it,” said Griffiths.
Once she takes over, Griffiths also revealed that two non-pulmonary arterial hypertension drugs that are in the late-stage pipeline of Actelion would be reviewed. This includes one that treats C. difficile infections and another one that treats multiple sclerosis.