Anchor Therapeutics Hooks Deal Worth Up to $480M with J&J

9/9/10

Anchor Therapeutics has landed its largest corporate partnership yet. The Cambridge, MA-based biotech startup has secured a partnership that could be worth up to $480 million with Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals, part of the healthcare products giant Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ).

Ortho-McNeil-Janssen, based in Titusville, NJ, has agreed to pay Anchor an undisclosed upfront fee, provide research funding to the startup, and deliver potential milestone payments in the deal to license several drug targets in the fields of cancer and metabolic disease treatment. The deal provides further proof that big drug companies are interested in Anchor’s novel pepducin drugs, which hold the promise to hit cell-signaling targets for treating many types of diseases.

“[Ortho-McNeil-Janssen] has taken our value proposition to heart, and that is the proposition that we can go after targets that other people can’t,” says Anchor CEO Rick Jones.

Anchor’s biological drugs home in on cell-signaling proteins, which reside in the cell membrane, called G protein coupled receptors, or GPCRs. Its drugs are designed to anchor into the cell membrane, where they can manipulate specific GPCRs in order to treat certain diseases. (There’s a tidy animation of how this works on the homepage of Anchor’s website.) These are well-known receptors, and drugs that target them already account for some $40 billion in annual sales, but Anchor offers methods to hit certain members of this family of receptors in ways that standard small molecule drugs haven’t.

To hear Jones tell it, the catalyst for closing the deal with Ortho-McNeil-Janssen was the biotech’s lab experiments involving a signaling protein called gpr39. The receptor is believed to play a role in metabolic diseases such as … Next Page »

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