Johnson & Johnson has entered into a pact with Capricor Therapeutics which could net the stem cell therapy specialist just shy of $340 million.

Under the terms of the agreement, J&J's Janssen unit will help with the development of Capricor's cell therapy programme for cardiovascular applications, including its lead product, CAP-1002. The latter is an allogeneic adult stem cell therapy derived from donor heart tissue which is under evaluation in patients who have suffered a large myocardial infarction.

The partners say they will collaborate on elements of cell manufacturing development and Capricor will receive an upfront payment of $12.5 million. Janssen has the right to license CAP-1002 at any time until sixty days following delivery by Capricor of six-month follow-up results from a Phase II trial.

If Janssen exercises its option rights, Capricor will be eligible to receive up to $325 million in additional payments, plus royalties. Chief executive Linda Marban said the deal is "a tremendous milestone" for the Los Angeles-headquartered biotech, "an important validation of our lead product, CAP-1002, and the underlying science".