J&J grabs an option to buy a NASH drug in latest string of biotech deals

J&J has grabbed an option to buy Bird Rock Bio and its experimental NASH drug candidate, the CB1-targeting antibody namacizumab, if the pharma giant likes what it sees in an ongoing Phase I study.

La Jolla, CA-based Bird Rock, which changed its name from RuiYi, is going after the Cannabinoid receptor 1, which J&J also believes has potential for treating diabetic kidney disease. No terms were given for their option and collaboration, which topped J&J’s latest batch of deals from its global business development team.

Bird Rock outlined plans for the Phase I last October, blueprinting a single ascending dose trial in 24 healthy volunteers will assess safety, tolerability, and pharmacokinetics. A multiple ascending dose trial will be triggered following the safety review of the last SAD cohort and will include up to 60 non-alcoholic fatty liver disease patients. Data from the SAD and MAD are anticipated to be available in Q1 2017 and Q4 2017.

Bird Rock claims this is the only CB1 program for NASH in the clinic. No financial terms were released in the company’s statement.

The list of new deals at J&J includes a pact with Amorsa Therapeutics, which has been working on a ketamine analog for severe depression, a big focus for J&J and others who have been trying to transform the anesthetic and party drug into a commercial therapy that can offer rapid relief to some of the worst afflicted patients.

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