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Johnson & Johnson grows prostate cancer franchise with Aragon purchase

Authored by James Sheppard

The global pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson (J&J) announced that it has completed the purchase of US biotech Aragon Pharmaceuticals, in a deal that could be worth up to $1bn. The deal is comprised of $650m upfront and a further $350m in milestone payments.

J&J has decided to only acquire Aragon’s lead asset, ARN-509 and leave the other assets for the current management to spin out into a new biotech, which it will have no stake in. Aragon’s lead asset, ARN-509 is an androgen receptor antagonist now under investigation in castration resistant prostate cancer (CRPC). ARN-509 is currently the subject of phase II clinical studies in the US.

The deal is a logical next step for J&J following their billion dollar deal to buy Cougar Biotechnology. In that purchase, J&J snagged one of their other main cancer drugs, Zytiga. J&J sees the Aragon deal as a way to potentially develop blockbuster combo drugs combining Zytiga and ARN-509. CEO of Aragon, Richard Heyman said ‘the combo drug would hit two focal points of androgen-dependent prostate cancer.’ The deal is set to expand J&J prostate cancer franchise even further, building on Zytiga sales of $961m in 2012, almost triple 2011 sales.

Head of Oncology research at J&J, Peter Lebowitz said ‘The acquisition of Aragon further enhances our leadership in prostate cancer drug development. ARN-509 complements Zytiga and provides the potential for exciting, novel approaches to treat prostate cancer patients.’

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