Janssen Strikes Deal to Acquire BeneVir and its Oncolytic Virus Platform in Deal Worth Up to $1 Billion

Mergers and Acquisitions

Shares of HC2 Holdings, Inc. skyrocketed more than 51 percent in premarket trading today after Janssen Biotech Inc announced it was acquiring Rockville, Maryland-based BeneVir Biopharm, Inc., a subsidiary of HC2 in a deal that could be worth more than $1 billion.

Janssen Biotech, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen Pharmaceuticals, cut the deal in order to acquire BeneVir’s proprietary T-Stealth Oncolytic Virus Platform that can be used to develop oncolytic viruses used to infect and destroy cancer cells. The deal was facilitated by Johnson & Johnson Innovation LLC.

Peter Lebowitz, Global Therapeutic Area Head of Oncology at Janssen Research & Development, said oncolytic viral immunotherapy “holds exciting potential” in the treatment of solid tumors. Using oncolytic viral immunotherapy can prime and augment anti-tumor immune responses, he said.

Oncolytic viruses are a growing field in immuno-oncology. Oncolytics have been shown to make a difference in treating various cancers. In 2015 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first oncolytic virus therapy for melanoma, Amgen’s Imlygic. Multiple companies have jumped into the field, including Merck, which in February acquired Australia-based Viralytics Limited and its oncolytic immunotherapy treatments for $394 million.

The BeneVir T-Stealth platform engineers the oncolytic viruses in order to overcome the body’s immune system. Janssen said it will advance pre-clinical candidates as standalone therapies and in combination with other immunotherapies for the treatment of solid tumor cancers, including lung, prostate, colorectal and more.

“BeneVir's unique technology platform complements our immuno-oncology research, which is focused on bringing forward an array of novel immunotherapies and combinations that may improve treatment outcomes for patients,” Lebowitz said in a statement.

While Janssen was mum on the financial details of the transaction, HC2 said the deal could be worth up to $1.04 billion when milestones are included. Under the terms of the agreement, Janssen will make an upfront cash payment of $140 million and additional contingent payments of up to $900 million based on achievement of certain predetermined milestones, HC2 announced. The deal is expected to close in the second quarter of 2018.

BeneVir will continue to maintain a research presence in Maryland and become part of the Janssen Oncology Therapeutic Area. The BeneVir team will remain focused on the optimization of next-generation T-Stealth oncolytic viruses in solid tumors and the execution of pre-clinical activities, Janssen said.   

Mathai Mammen, global head of Janssen Research & Development, LLC., hailed the addition of the BeneVir team and its scientific platform to the Janssen umbrella.

“We are committed to pursue transformational science from our own laboratories and those of others, as we continue to advance our focus on treating some of the world's most devastating diseases,” Mammen said.

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