Janssen Pharmaceuticals, a subsidiary of the giant manufacturing company, Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) has expanded the current partnership with the long-beleaguered Geron Corporation (NASDAQ:GERN). The newly formed partnership is for the worldwide and exclusive rights to the biotech’s oligonucleotide backbone chemistry and the novel amides for ribonucleic acid interference or RNAi. The latter is used in the prevention, treatment, and diagnosis of any disease.
J&J And Geron Partnership
The Janssen Pharmaceuticals and Geron partnership specifically does not include any approach to bone marrow and blood originating cancers, including any product that works primarily via telomerase inhibition. These exclusions, however, have already been covered under a current deal between the two companies which was previously executed on November 2014.
In addition to this, Janssen has also been given a non-exclusive worldwide license to monomer synthesis technology. Monomers, known to be the building blocks of oligonucleotides, are stated to be used as part of the imetelstat program. Imetelstat is a modified short oligonucleotide. The particular imetelstat program was already licensed previously in a deal made back in 2014.
Aside from an upfront payment amounting to $5 million, Geron is eligible for development and regulatory milestones budget amounting to $75 million. This is in addition to existing low single digit royalties on the net sales of any resulting product marketed worldwide.
Janssen On Continuing To Advance With Telomerase Inhibitor Imetelstat
The motion to build a partnership with Geron comes ahead of a Janssen decision on continuing to advance with telomerase inhibitor imetelstat. Janssen is nominated to come up with a decision on whether to go on with the Phase III portion of a Phase II/III trial on the coming second quarter next year. If things go forward, patient enrollment in the Phase III portion is slated for mid-2017.
According to data, the two-armed and planned 200-patient Phase II portion of the imetelstat trial in the medication of intermediate-2 or high-risk myelofibrosis (MF) patients hasn’t been particularly promising. These patients are those who are refractory to or who have relapsed after treatment with a JAK inhibitor.