India's Advinus Therapeutics has entered into a major drug discovery and development deal with Johnson & Johnson.

The company has teamed up with J&J’s Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals unit to develop drug candidates “for various disease targets”. Quite what these disease areas are was not disclosed but it is a fair assumption that the pact will focus on metabolic and inflammatory diseases, Advinus’ principal area of expertise.

The Bangalore-headquartered firm will be responsible for drug discovery and clinical development until the completion of Phase IIa studies, at which stage OMPJ will have an option to advance candidates into late-stage trials and hopefully market them. Cash-wise, Advinus will receive an undisclosed upfront payment and could receive milestones of up to $247 million upon the successful development of two targets. It is also eligible for royalties.

Kasim Mookhtiar, head of drug discovery at Advinus, said the collaboration provides “a great opportunity to synergise the talent of Indian drug discovery and development scientists at Advinus with the scientific, clinical development and commercial strengths of a company like OMJP”.

Advinus, which is majority-owned by the huge Indian conglomerate Tata Sons, recently signed a deal with Genzyme Corp and Medicines for Malaria Venture to discover novel therapies for the disease which kills up to two million people a year. Also it has been working with Merck & Co since November 2006 to develop drugs for metabolic disorders, and Advinus could potentially receive $74.5 million per target, plus royalties. The Indian firm has already achieved a number of milestones set out in that alliance.