Johnson & Johnson's Janssen Pharmaceuticals has snapped up an investigational antiviral from GlaxoSmithKline in a bid to develop an oral regimen for the treatment of hepatitis C (HCV).

The drugmaker has bought itself access to the NS5a replication complex inhibitor GSK2336805, which GSK and partner Vertex had taken up to Phase II development for the treatment of chronic HCV in adult patients with compensated liver disease.  

Under the deal, Janssen has acquired all rights to develop and commercialise the experimental candidate, including in combination with other medicines, but financial terms have been kept tightly under wraps.

It was revealed that Janssen intends to initiate Phase II studies to assess the drug's potential in interferon-free combinations with the investigational protease inhibitor simeprevir (TMC435) and TMC647055, its own non-nucleoside polymerase inhibitor, to treat the disease in patients with the condition.

"JNJ will try to develop an all-oral (possibly once-daily) HCV combo to compete against the simplest and easiest (regimen)," wrote RBC Capital Markets analyst Michael Yee in a client note, according Investor's Business Daily.

According to Yee, the simplest regimen is currently Gilead's sofosbuvir plus ribavirin, which is being reviewed by US regulators. 

Around 150 million people are infected with hepatitis C worldwide and 350,000 people per year die from the disease globally.