NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—Johnson & Johnson (J&J) said on August 19 it agreed to purchase drugmaker Momenta Pharmaceuticals Inc. for about $6.5 billion.

The New Brunswick-based corporation has grown the sales of treatments for autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis, but competition from generic Remicade, produced by J&J’s Janssen unit, has hindered growth in that sector.

J&J’s solution? Acquire a biotechnology company with a “lead asset” as the company put it, then ramp up sales of treatments that aid people suffering from rare, autoantibody-driven, or immune-mediated diseases.

Health care industry watchers with investment bank SVBLeerink, feel the new category of autoimmune drugs may account for as much as $25 billion in the United States in the next decade.

Johnson & Johnson’s worldwide headquarters in New Brunswick

Citing the “potential for significant peak year sales, some of which could exceed $1 billion,” J&J said that Janssen would be gaining “differentiated, parallel development programs and full worldwide commercial rights to develop nipocalimab,” an antibody that is currently considered an investigational therapy.

J&J said it plans to retain Momenta’s presence in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where it will convert Momenta’s site to a Janssen site to increase its “existing innovation footprint in the greater Boston area.”

J&J also cited Momenta’s top scientists, many proprietary technologies and sophisticated laboratories.

“This acquisition broadens Janssen’s leadership in autoimmune diseases and provides us with a major catalyst for sustained growth. Autoantibody-driven diseases are often serious, and patients are underserved by current treatment options,” said J&J’s Jennifer Taubert, Executive Vice President, Worldwide Chairman, Pharmaceuticals, citing Momenta’s talent pool and “pipeline”–the flow of products from research and development to mass production and the market.

“In addition to Momenta’s… asset nipocalimab, Janssen will acquire Momenta’s pipeline of clinical and pre-clinical assets,” said J&J in a release.

“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 J&J’s Mathai Mammen, M.D., Ph.D., Global Head of Janssen Research & Development.

“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.’ We are excited about the significant potential to expand on Momenta’s excellent progress in rare diseases, and to increase our impact on patients both within and beyond our current focus areas.”

Nipocalimab recently received a rare pediatric disease designation from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the prevention of hemolytic disease of the fetus, added J&J.

The deal is expected to be finalized by January of 2021.

Dave is an award-winning business reporter who has authored over 200 articles for New Brunswick Today.