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Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen has announced its decision to pull the plug on the development of the hepatitis C (HCV) combination treatment JNJ-4178, citing the growing availability of new treatments since the up-to-$1.1 billion collaboration with Achillion Pharmaceuticals was launched in 2015.

According to Johnson & Johnson, ongoing Phase II studies with JNJ-4178 will be completed as planned, but there will be no further development thereafter.
Drawn to hepatitis C at a time when the field was undergoing a dramatic shift in coming up with a painless resolution of the disease, that work is now done. Janssen and Achillion launched their collaboration in May 2015, with a key objective of developing a short-duration, highly effective, pan-genotypic, oral regimen for hepatitis C.

JNJ-4178 is a combination of three direct-acting antivirals—AL-335, a nucleotide-based HCV NS5B polymerase inhibitor that Janssen inherited by acquiring Alios BioPharma for $1.75 billion in 2014; Achillion’s ACH-3102 (odalasvir), an HCV NS5A inhibitor; and the Janssen-marketed hepatitis C drug Olysio (simeprevir), an HCV NS3/4A protease inhibitor licensed from Medivir.

“We are disappointed by Janssen’s decision to discontinue HCV development given the positive data presented in phase 2a with JNJ-4178,” Achillion President and CEO Milind Deshpande, Ph.D., stated. “While we believe that patients worldwide would benefit from convenient, short-duration therapies like JNJ-4178, we remain fully focused on advancing our factor D portfolio of complement alternative pathway inhibitors in areas where patient needs are greatest, and using our strong balance sheet of almost $370 million in cash and cash equivalents at June 30, 2017 to do so.”

“Going forward, our hepatitis R&D efforts will focus on chronic hepatitis B, where a high unmet medical need still exists. Our scientists are energized by this challenge and our research ambition is to achieve a functional cure of hepatitis B which affects over a quarter of a billion people globally,” said Lawrence Blatt, the head of infectious disease at Janssen.

“At Janssen, we focus our research and development on areas of greatest unmet medical need where we can combine our excellent internal science with the best available external innovation to bring optimized solutions and maximum benefit to patients.”

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