J&J strikes $6.5 billion deal for autoimmune disease specialist Momenta

FILE PHOTO: The company logo for Johnson & Johnson is displayed on a screen to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the company's listing at the NYSE in New York

By Manas Mishra

(Reuters) – Johnson & Johnson agreed to buy Momenta Pharmaceuticals Inc for about $6.5 billion on Wednesday, to bolster its portfolio of drugs for hard-to-treat autoimmune diseases.

The acquisition, latest in a recent spate of healthcare deals, comes just days after France’s Sanofi struck a $3.7 billion deal to buy Principia Biopharma Inc for its pipeline of autoimmune disease treatments.

Treatments targeting autoimmune conditions have fetched billions of dollars in sales, including AbbVie Inc’s Humira, which is the world’s best selling drug.

J&J’s Janssen unit will gain access to Momenta’s experimental therapy, nipocalimab, which is in late-stage testing for warm antibody hemolytic anemia, a condition that causes destruction of healthy red blood cells, and mid-stage testing for myasthenia gravis, a neuromuscular disease.

Nipocalimab is expected to eventually win approval to treat several conditions, “many as first-in-class indications with potential for significant peak year sales, some of which could exceed $1 billion,” J&J said in a statement.

“We find the deal modestly surprising as we see every one of Momenta’s assets as somewhat tricky to develop,” said BTIG analyst Thomas Shrader.

Shares of Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Momenta were up 69.2% at $52.15, just a hair’s breadth away from the offer price of $52.50.

With the recent flurry of activity, the pharmaceutical and biotech sectors have seen 829 deals so far this year, compared with 839 by this time in 2019, according to data from Refinitiv.

The value of the deals, however, is much lower this year – $62 billion versus $290 billion a year ago.

J&J in recent years has sold some businesses such as the one that made medical devices for diabetes care, as it sharpens focus on better-performing products such as cancer treatments.

(Reporting by Manas Mishra in Bengaluru; Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips, Lewis Krauskopf and Shinjini Ganguli)