Morphic and Janssen to Collaborate in Deal Worth up to $750 Million

animation of Integrin alpha-v-beta-3

Integrin alpha-v-beta-3.

Waltham, Mass.-based Morphic Therapeutic and Janssen Biotech, a division of Johnson & Johnson, entered into a collaborative deal to develop novel integrin therapeutics for patients with conditions not adequately addressed by current therapies.

The collaboration between the companies focuses on several undisclosed integrin targets and will explore both inhibitors and activators of integrin function, the companies said this morning. Integrins are a ubiquitous family of receptors expressed on the surface of most human cells. Integrin signaling controls a wide range of cellular processes, such as cell survival, cell cycle progression and immune system activation. Aberrant integrin signaling contributes to a diverse array of human diseases, including each of Morphic’s focus areas of fibrosis, autoimmune diseases, and immuno-oncology.

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Under terms of the deal, Morphic Therapeutics will receive more than $725 million from the collaboration if milestones are hit. Upon completing Investigational New Drug-enabling studies, Janssen may exclusively option the licensed compounds, and then Janssen will be responsible for global clinical development and commercialization.

Praveen Tipirneni, president and chief executive officer of Morphic Therapeutic, said the company is pleased with the collaboration. Working together, Tipirneni said the two companies will drive the development of a new generation of oral integrin medicines using his company’s in-house platform, which was developed by Morphic’s scientific founder Tim Springer. Applying this platform to all 24 known human integrins, including αI integrin targets, potentially expands Morphic’s drug discovery capabilities, pipeline and the therapeutic applications of its drug candidates across a diverse set of diseases. This reflects integrins’ important role in many cellular processes, the company said.

“The dysregulation of the diverse integrin family is implicated in many conditions, creating an urgency which drives our team’s mission to rapidly and systematically interrogate this target class both from an inhibition and activation perspective. This partnership offers exciting opportunities to advance oral integrin development into new areas of research which creates value for all our internal programs and accelerates the refinement and validation of our platform,” Tipirneni said in a statement.

For Morphic, the deal with Janssen comes about four months after it struck a deal with Illinois-based AbbVie. In October, Morphic and AbbVie entered an agreement to develop integrin inhibitors for fibrotic diseases. The two companies will focus on advancing Morphic’s oral integrin therapeutics for the indications. Morphic Therapeutic’s platform for integrin oral inhibitors is designed to block TGF-β activation, which is thought to be a key approach to halt or reverse fibrosis. As part of that agreement, AbbVie provided Morphic with $100 million in upfront funding.

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