J&J buys novel lung cancer drug from South Korea's Yuhan

Janssen J&J Johnson and Johnson pharmaceutical companies

Janssen Biotech has bought Yuhan’s Lazertinib, a novel clinical-stage therapeutic candidate for the treatment of patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).

J&J’s pharma arm, Janssen, struck the deal with South Korea-based Yuhan and has agreed to pay $50m upfront to secure the licence. The move sent Yuhan’s shares soaring by nearly 30%.

Yuhan stands to potentially receive up to $1.25 billion in potential development and commercial milestone payments, along with tiered double-digit royalties on future net sales. The drug has the potential to be a blockbuster if it is successful.

Janssen will take responsibility for the development, manufacturing and commercialisation with exclusive worldwide rights to Lazertinib, excluding the Republic of Korea, where Yuhan will retain the rights.

Lazertinib is a third generation EGFR tyrosine-kinase inhibitor for NSCLC with various EGFR mutations, which may have potential as a first-line therapy.

It is also able to cross the blood-brain barrier and Yuhan has revealed preliminary evidence to show it is effective in treating patients whose primary lung cancers have spread to the brain, with a 55% response rate for intracranial tumours in the firm’s phase 1/2 trial.

Yuhan and Janssen will collaborate on global clinical trials evaluating Lazertinib both as a monotherapy and in combination regimens. Clinical trials should begin in 2019.

Yuhan president and CEO Lee Jung-hee, said: “Yuhan is committed to developing lazertinib as an effective treatment option for patients suffering from NSCLC. Janssen, with strong scientific expertise in lung cancer and oncology, is the best strategic partner to achieve this mission.

“We are excited to start this collaboration and dive into advancing this treatment regimen with a focus on improving the lives of people who suffer from lung cancer.”

Meanwhile, AstraZeneca’s Tagrisso (osimertinib) has already become established as a second-line treatment for EGFR-mutated NSCLC and was approved as a first-line therapy in Europe this summer and in the US in April.

In August, Tagrisso received the green light from The Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare as a first-line treatment of patients with positive NSCLC.