Johnson & Johnson to Acquire Momenta and Rights to Nipocalimab

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by Joana Carvalho, PhD |

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Johnson & Johnson will acquire Momenta Pharmaceuticals, which has been developing nipocalimab (M281) for the treatment of myasthenia gravis (MG).

The process, which involves an all-cash deal totaling about $6.5 billion, is expected to be completed before the end of this year. The acquisition will enable Janssen, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, to have access to Momenta’s portfolio of treatment candidates for autoimmune disease, including nipocalimab.

“This acquisition broadens Janssen’s leadership in autoimmune diseases and provides us with a major catalyst for sustained growth,”  Jennifer Taubert, executive vice president, worldwide chairman of pharmaceuticals at Johnson & Johnson, said in a press release.

“We’re excited by the opportunity to further advance patient care by combining Johnson & Johnson’s world-class R&D [research and development], commercial and supply chain capabilities with Momenta’s talented people, pipeline and deep expertise in this important area,” Taubert added.

Nipocalimab is an antibody designed to block the activity of the neonatal Fc receptor (FcRn), a protein that is responsible for preventing the destruction of IgG antibodies, including the harmful autoantibodies that people with certain autoimmune diseases produce.

By blocking the activity of FcRn, nipocalimab is expected to lower the levels of autoantibodies circulating in the bloodstream and ease the symptoms of such disorders. Nipocalimab is currently being investigated as a treatment for MG and other autoimmune disorders, including warm autoimmune hemolytic anemia (wAIHA) and hemolytic disease of fetus and newborn.

Momenta recently announced top-line data from a Phase 2 clinical trial (NCT03772587), called Vivacity-MG, which is assessing the safety, tolerability, and effectiveness of nipocalimab in people with generalized MG.

Results showed that more than half (52%) of the patients who received one of the four dose regimens of nipocalimab experienced a rapid and sustained reduction in disease severity. This was accompanied by a clinically meaningful reduction in the levels of circulating MG autoantibodies.

Nipocalimab was safe and well-tolerated, with no patients experiencing side effects leading to treatment discontinuation.

“Nipocalimab, and the rest of Momenta’s pipeline, built over many years by outstanding scientists who have turned important insights into actionable biology, expands and complements our portfolio by giving us clinical-stage and discovery-stage compounds in autoantibody biological pathways,” said Mathai Mammen, MD, PhD, global head of Janssen Research and Development at Johnson & Johnson.

Beyond Vivacity-MG, which is expected to conclude before the end of this year, a Phase 2/3 trial (NCT04119050) is investigating the therapeutic potential of nipocalimab for the treatment of wAIHA. Patient screening and enrollment in this trial has been put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition to nipocalimab, Janssen also will acquire Momenta’s entire pipeline of treatment candidates still in preclinical testing, whose purpose will be defined as soon as more data become available.

Johnson & Johnson is confident its acquisition of Momenta may lead to new treatments for a number of indications,

“Combining Momenta’s discoveries with our 20-year heritage in immunology, global scope, and scientific and medical expertise, we see a real opportunity to create an entire ‘pipeline in a pathway,’” Mammen said.

Janssen also is planning to retain Momenta’s headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts, a site the company believes will help expand Johnson & Johnson’s influence in the greater Boston area.