12:00 AM
Dec 12, 2011
 |  BioCentury  |  Strategy

Btk to the future

J&J deviates cancer strategy with commitment to Pharmacyclics Btk compound

Johnson & Johnson says the science and first-mover advantage behind Pharmacyclics Inc.'s Btk inhibitor were interesting enough for the pharma to step outside its focus on the tumor microenvironment - and to justify a $150 million upfront payment. The partners, which will share costs and profits, plan to start Phase III testing of PCI-32765 for B cell malignancies in mid-2012.

J&J has spent several years retooling its oncology R&D organization to focus on projects that disrupt the tumor microenvironment. This initiative has involved in-house changes like adding biomarker and translational medicine groups, and bringing in external assets, such as prostate cancer drug Zytiga abiraterone (see BioCentury, Aug. 30, 2010).

However, the pharma has not developed tunnel vision, according to William Hait, J&J's global therapeutic area head for oncology R&D, who has overseen the strategic shift since joining the company in 2007.

"Most of the deals we've done and our internal pipeline are focused on the microenvironment," he told BioCentury. "Our strategy does allow for some wiggle room, but an asset that isn't right in the bull's-eye will have to reach a much higher hurdle of proof."

Hait said J&J made its first major wiggle last week as its Janssen Biotech Inc. unit partnered to develop PCI-32765, a Bruton's tyrosine kinase (Btk) inhibitor. The compound is in Phase II testing for chronic lymphocytic...

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