Johnson & Johnson boosts cancer drug pipeline with $1-billion deal to buy Aragon Pharmaceuticals

Johnson & Johnson announced Monday a definitive agreement to acquire Aragon Pharmaceuticals for up to $1 billion, boosting its oncology pipeline. Under the deal, Johnson & Johnson will gain Aragon's second-generation androgen receptor signalling inhibitor ARN-509, which is in Phase II development for castration-resistant prostate cancer.

"Prostate cancer is one of our main areas of focus," remarked Peter F. Lebowitz, head of oncology research for Johnson & Johnson's Janssen Research & Development unit, adding that "ARN-509 complements Zytiga and provides the potential for exciting, novel approaches to treat prostate cancer patients." Johnson & Johnson's Zytiga (abiraterone acetate) gained expanded approval in patients with castration-resistant prostate cancer in the US in December last year and in Europe in January.

Under the agreed terms, Johnson & Johnson will make an upfront cash payment of $650 million to Aragon, with the latter eligible for up to $350 million in additional payments based on developmental milestones for ARN-509. The transaction is expected to close in the third quarter. The companies noted that prior to completion of the deal, Aragon's remaining assets other than its androgen receptor antagonist programme will be spun off into a separate company named Seragon Pharmaceuticals. The company will be led by current Aragon CEO Richard Heyman, and Johnson & Johnson will not hold any ownership stake in Seragon or retain any rights to its developmental pipeline or technology.

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