Johnson & Johnson announced it will acquire bispecific antibodies biotech Proteologix for $850 million in cash.

The deal, which was announced Thursday morning, gives J&J access to PX128, a bispecific antibody for moderate to severe atopic dermatitis (AD) as well as moderate to severe asthma. 

The pharma giant also picked up PX130 — another bispecific antibody for moderate to severe AD — as well as a number of other early-stage bispecific antibody candidates across various therapeutic areas.

Bispecific antibodies are next generation monoclonal antibodies, and are being developed to treat cancer, chronic inflammation and autoimmune disease, as well as vascular and neurodegenerative diseases.

The move bolsters J&J’s immunology pipeline as it seeks to develop a treatment for AD, the most common inflammatory skin disease. AD — also referred to as eczema — is a chronic condition that causes skin inflammation, irritation and rashes.

J&J’s global immunology therapeutic area head David Lee noted in a statement that about 70% of AD patients that use existing therapies do not reach remission. The drugmaker’s goal is to develop and commercialize these drug assets to reach an unmet need for a sizable patient population.

“Current advanced therapies for AD either target a single pathway and have limited efficacy or are more broadly immunosuppressive, resulting in significant safety concerns,” Lee noted. “We see an opportunity for best-in-disease efficacy for both PX128 and PX130 as each bispecific antibody targets two different combinations of disease driving pathways that are mediating the skin inflammation in heterogenous subpopulations of AD patients.”

PX128 is currently in the process of entering Phase 1 development, the company said. The drug inhibits IL-13-mediated Th2 skin inflammation, which the company pinpoints as an important disease-driving pathway in AD and asthma. PX128 also inhibits TSLP, a mediator for tissue inflammation.

Both bispecific antibodies are meant to be dosed infrequently to provide more convenience for patients.

The move also reflects J&J’s larger mission of developing a portfolio of “differentiated and complementary bispecifics,” especially as more pharma companies eye opportunities the dermatological treatment space.

“We plan to continue expanding our reach and impact for people living with a wide variety of immune-mediated diseases, leveraging more targeted options for them to reach durable, symptom-free remission,” said Candice Long, worldwide VP of immunology at J&J, in a statement.

The acquisition is the second major one for J&J this year after it spent $2 billion to pick up antibody drug conjugate biotech Ambrx Biopharma.

For a May 2024 article on J&J scratching an AD itch by acquiring an experimental eczema antibody for $1.25B, click here.