Centocor Ortho Biotech acquires lung disease portfolio in takeover of Respivert

23 June 2010

Centocor Ortho Biotech Inc., a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, has acquired RespiVert Ltd., a privately held drug discovery company focused on developing small-molecule, inhaled therapies for the treatment of pulmonary diseases.

The company’s lead compounds, RV-568 and RV-1088, narrow spectrum kinase inhibitors with a unique profile of anti-inflammatory activities, are progressing into clinical development as potential first-in-class treatments for moderate to severe asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and cystic fibrosis (CF).

With the acquisition of RespiVert, Centocor Ortho Biotech gains a portfolio of first-in-class, early-stage inhaled treatments for serious lung diseases. RespiVert will continue to maintain its research and discovery presence in London from the Imperial BioIncubator, which is based at the campus of Imperial College London. RespiVert employees will continue to lead ongoing research and drug discovery efforts.

The clinical development of RV-568 and RV-1088 will be led by RespiVert in collaboration with scientists at Centocor Research and Development, Inc. The company is not disclosing financial terms.

“The RespiVert compounds offer the potential for a new class of medicines for patients with severe lung disease that are insensitive to inhaled corticosteroids,” said Susan Dillon, Ph.D., Global Therapeutic Area Head, Immunology, Centocor Research and Development, Inc.

 “The addition of RespiVert’s expert scientific team and discovery platforms for inhaled medicines strengthens our capabilities and further builds our pipeline of novel oral and biologic therapies for serious pulmonary diseases.”

Dr. Garth Rapeport, Chief Executive Officer of RespiVert, who is remaining with RespiVert following the acquisition, said, “We believe that our focused discovery efforts in pulmonary disease offer a unique opportunity to bring completely new treatment options to patients who suffer from severe, chronic respiratory diseases including Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, severe asthma and Cystic Fibrosis.”

About asthma, COPD, and CF

Severe or uncontrolled asthma is associated with significant morbidity, resulting in missed work and school days, and substantial limitation of activity, adversely impacting quality of life in asthmatics. Severe asthma represents a particular societal burden, with sources suggesting that half of the total cost of asthma in the United States is attributable to severe disease. Asthma is the cause of over 4,000 deaths each year in the US and over 12,000 in Europe.

COPD is an umbrella term for a group of lung diseases which include chronic bronchitis, emphysema and small airways disease. COPD is a serious, chronic disorder characterized by a slowly progressive decline in lung function with symptoms such as chronic cough and dyspnoea significantly impacting quality of life. COPD is estimated to cause 130,000 deaths per year in the US.

CF is an inherited life-threatening disease involving a genetic mutation that disrupts the cystic fibrosis transmembrane regulator (CFTR) protein, resulting in poorly hydrated, thickened mucous secretions in the lungs and digestive tract. Due to these changes, the lungs of individuals with cystic fibrosis are colonized and infected by bacteria from an early age. This leads to progressive and severe lung inflammation which is difficult to treat.

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