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Broadening immunology's reach

How J&J is expanding its immunology expertise beyond rheumatology

Rather than resting on its laurels in rheumatology and other traditional autoimmune indications, Johnson & Johnson's immunology group has spent several years pursuing its understanding of inflammation into new diseases. The recent decision to take psoriasis drug Stelara ustekinumab into the clinic for primary biliary cirrhosis shows the group continues to expand its turf.

While the Immunology Therapeutic Area is pursuing both line extensions and NMEs in rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis and inflammatory bowel diseases, it began work six or seven years ago in new areas where the pharma thought it could exploit a growing expertise in the interaction between the immune system and other tissues in the body.

That work included trials of Remicade infliximab in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and sarcoidosis, and has since expanded to include NMEs for respiratory diseases characterized by inflammation and over-production of mucus in the airways, including asthma and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) (see "J&J's Immunology Pipeline," A14).

Given that J&J's three marketed immunology drugs target inflammation pathways, it was natural to expand into other kinds of diseases with related mechanisms, Susan Dillon, global therapeutic area head for immunology, told BioCentury.

"Basically, what's included in the umbrella are immune-mediated diseases such as RA, IBD and psoriasis, as well as diseases that may have a similar mechanism of action driven by dysfunctional immune function," she said. "That leads us to study pathways such

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