US-based healthcare company Johnson & Johnson (J&J) has signed an agreement to acquire Swiss biotech company Actelion in a deal valued at $30bn.

J&J plans to fund the transaction with cash held outside the US, and stated that the addition of Actelion's in-market medicines and late-stage products is consistent with its efforts to grow in complementary therapeutic areas.

Furthermore, J&J will be able to accelerate investment in its pipeline to drive additional growth and expects to retain Actelion's presence in Switzerland.

J&J chairman and CEO Alex Gorsky said: "Adding Actelion's portfolio to our already strong Janssen Pharmaceuticals business is a unique opportunity for us to expand our portfolio with leading, differentiated in-market medicines and promising late-stage products.

“We expect to leverage our established global presence and commercial strength to accelerate growth and patient access to these important therapies."

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Immediately after the acquisition closes, Actelion will spin out its drug discovery operations and early stage clinical development assets into a newly created Swiss biopharmaceutical company R&D NewCo.

J&J will initially hold 16% of the shares of the new company and have rights to an additional 16% equity through a convertible note.

R&D NewCo is to inherit Actelion's drug discovery engine based in Allschwil, Switzerland, and will have a portfolio of drug candidates in clinical development across four focused therapeutic franchises.

"We expect to leverage our established global presence and commercial strength to accelerate growth and patient access to these important therapies."

Following these arrangements, R&D NewCo will launch Sfr1bn ($1bn) to be made available at the closing of the deal.

J&J will also receive an option on ACT-132577, a product within R&D NewCo, which is being developed for resistant hypertension and is currently in Phase II clinical development.

Through the proposed transaction, J&J will also acquire Actelion's other marketed products, including Valchlor and Zavesca, as well as global rights to ponesimod, an S1P1 receptor modulator in Phase III development.

The transaction is slated for completion by the end of this year's second quarter.

Image: Johnson & Johnson Headquarters in New Brunswick, New Jersey, US. Photo: courtesy of Ekem.