Janssen affiliate Cilag GmbH International has snapped up private Swiss biotech Covagen AG for an undisclosed sum, in a deal brokered by the Johnson & Johnson Innovation Center in London*.

The firm specialises in the development of multi-specific protein therapeutics via its FynomAb technology platform, which essentially binds proteins to antibodies to create therapeutics with novel modes of action and enhanced efficacy in the treatment of inflammatory diseases and cancer.

Covagen’s lead product, COVA 322, a bispecific anti-tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha/anti-interleukin (IL)-17A FynomAb, is being assessed in a Phase Ib study for psoriasis and holds potential as a treatment for a broad range of inflammatory diseases including rheumatoid arthritis, notes J&J.

According to Susan Dillon, Global Therapeutic Area Head of Immunology at Janssen Research & Development, the firm’s interest in Covagen “stems from the company’s scientific acumen, their novel FynomAb platform, and the potential of COVA 322, a bispecific designed to achieve better control of inflammation by blocking two key cytokines that have been implicated in disease pathogenesis and progression”. 

On the other side of the fence, Julian Bertschinger, co-founder and former chief executive officer of Covagen, added that Janssen’s “tremendous knowledge in the research and development of biologics provides us with a great environment to develop novel FynomAb-based therapeutics addressing unmet medical needs”.

Financial details of the deal were kept under wraps, but it was noted that Covagen will maintain a research presence in Zurich-Schlieren, Switzerland, and will continue to focus on the further development and application of the Fynomer technology. 

*Johnson & Johnson Innovation Ltd focuses on accelerating early-stage innovation worldwide and forming collaborations between entrepreneurs and J&J’s global healthcare businesses.