Company news: J&J, Novartis, Astellas

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Novartis and the University of Pennsylvania have created an alliance to research and develop targeted chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) immunotherapies to treat cancer. The agreement, which was announced Monday, includes several trades: Novartis gained exclusive rights to the investigational therapy CART-19, which Penn has already begun piloting. The experimental treatments target a protein that is linked to B-cell malignancies such as chronic lymphocytic leukemia and diffuse large B-cell lymphoma. The partnership also means Novartis will help back the creation of a Center for Advanced Cellular Therapies on Penn's Philadelphia campus. The partnership's goal is to develop treatments that help the patient's own cells fight disease. The therapy works by extracting T-cells, which help patients fight disease, and essentially reprogramming them so they seek out and bind to, and then destroy, the patient's cancer.

Johnson & Johnson has reached an agreement in principle regarding Risperdal allegations, the Wall Street Journal reported. The Journal said it couldn't pin down a figure, but estimates it could hit $2.2 billion, depending on how many states sign on. Johnson & Johnson has been sued over a variety of alleged infractions, including encouraging off-label use for the anti-psychotic and improper marketing tactics, among others. The company's January earnings call indicated settlements had eaten away at the company's numbers.

Astellas Pharmaceuticals said Monday that it was shuttering its urology research center, Urogenix. The company said in a statement that Durham, NC, site will be decommissioned by the end of December 2012. The research site was part of Dynogen Pharmaceuticals, which Astellas took over in 2006 and was focused on disorders of the lower urinary tract. The company said it is moving urological research to its Tsukuba Research Center in Japan. The announcement means 13 scientists in the Research Triangle Park area will be out of work -- the company confirmed by email that the scientists will not be placed elsewhere.
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