Johnson & Johnson (J&J) is once again targeting atopic dermatitis, gaining the global rights to Numab Therapeutics’ investigational first-in-class antibody, NM26.

Numab will receive $1.25bn from J&J in an all-cash transaction, which is expected to close in H2 2024. The deal involves the acquisition of Yellow Jersey Therapeutics, a subsidiary of Numab that contains all assets relating to NM26.

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NM26 is a bispecific antibody that targets the interleukin (IL)-4R and IL-31 pathways in atopic dermatitis, an inflammatory skin condition that causes dry, red, and irritated patches. The antibody is currently being evaluated in a Phase I clinical trial (NCT05859724) that kicked off in May 2023. The 140-participant cohort study is evaluating the safety and pharmacokinetics of single and multiple doses of NM26.

Numab previously licensed rights to NM26 in Japan to Kaken Pharmaceutical. J&J will enter a separate agreement to secure rights in the Asia Pacific region, as per the 28 May announcement.

J&J is building up its portfolio in dermatology, following the $850m acquisition of Proteologix earlier this month. The pharma giant inherited Proteologix’s PX128, a bispecific antibody designed to target IL-13, as well as the cytokine TSLP. The therapy is being developed for the treatment of patients with moderate to severe atopic dermatitis and moderate to severe asthma.

The leading drug in the atopic dermatitis space is Sanofi and Regeneron’s blockbuster therapy Dupixent (dupilumab), which aims at pathways implicated in skin inflammation. However, according to J&J, NM26 targets itching as well as inflammation.

Dupixent generated $11.3bn in sales in 2023, which could increase to $23bn in 2030, as per GlobalData consensus forecasts. According to a report on GlobalData’s Pharma Intelligence Center, the global atopic dermatitis market will be worth $24.4bn in 2030.

GlobalData is the parent company of Pharmaceutical Technology.

In the announcement accompanying the deal, J&J’s vice president of immunology Candice Long said: “Our investment in differentiated bispecifics is the next chapter in our impactful Immunology legacy. It reinforces our commitment to address unmet medical needs by leveraging patient insights and our deep disease expertise.”