Johnson & Johnson has acquired the UK’s RespiVert, a privately-held drug discovery company focused on developing inhaled therapies for pulmonary diseases.

J&J’s Centocor unit says that it is getting hold of “a portfolio of first-in-class, early-stage inhaled treatments for serious lung diseases”. RespiVert’s lead compounds are RV-568 and RV-1088, narrow spectrum kinase inhibitors which are progressing into clinical development for moderate-to-severe asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and cystic fibrosis.

RespiVert was co-founded by Garth Rapeport and Peter Strong (both ex-GlaxoSmithKline) together with Peter Barnes and Kazuhiro Ito, based at the National Heart and Lung Institute at Imperial College, London and John Murray (formerly of OSI Pharmaceuticals).The London-headquartered firm is backed by Advent Venture Partners, SV Life Sciences, Fidelity Biosciences and Imperial Innovations Group.

The companies are not disclosing financial terms, although Imperial says it has made £9.5 million (gross) in cash following the sale of its 13.4% stake in Respivert. The disposal represents a 4.7 times return on its three-year investment.

Advent added that deal returned “a significant part of the fund", noting that the sale of RespiVert within three years and one round of financing “demonstrates how, at a time when many investors were not interested in early-stage bioscience, Advent was able to generate an early exit with outstanding results”.