Johnson & Johnson is licensing an investigational inflammatory bowel disease from microbiome specialist Vedanta Biosciences

The healthcare giant’s giant Janssen unit is getting its hands on VE202, a bacterial product which has demonstrated efficacy in preclinical studies. The deal, which could be worth up to $241 million, includes an undisclosed upfront fee and various milestones.

Vedanta, which was launched in 2010 by venture capital group PureTech, was founded “on the belief that the microbiome represents one of the great frontiers of human health”, said interim chief executive David Steinberg. Co-founder Ruslan Medzhitov added that “the recent enthusiasm around the microbiome needs to be directed to translational research to truly fulfill the potential of the field”.

He added that “we chose our lead candidate because it had such robust data supporting its profound role in human biology”. The development of VE202 originated from work conducted initially at the University of Tokyo which showed that specific gut-dwelling bacteria control key immune cells that combat autoimmune diseases.  

This latest deal with Janssen follows an initial investment from Johnson & Johnson Innovation made in Vedanta in June 2013. It comes a week after Nestle Health Science invested $65 million into another microbiome therapeutics firm, the USA’s Seres Health.