UPDATED: J&J licenses China's Sino Biopharma hep B liver treatment

Pharma giant Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) said it has licensed the rights to various liver treatments from a unit of Beijing- and Hong Kong-based Sino Biopharmaceutical that it hopes will help lead to a cure for chronic hepatitis B. The agreement gives J&J exclusive rights to develop, manufacture and sell the drugs outside China. Financial details were not disclosed. J&J believes the deal with Sino's Chia Tai Tianqing Pharmaceutical (CTTQ) unit will help it develop drugs that stimulate the immune system and use them in combination with antiviral drugs J&J acquired with its Novira Therapeutics acquisition in November. "With the Novira acquisition we have the lead direct antiviral in the world for HBV," Lawrence Blatt, head of infectious diseases and vaccines for J&J's Janssen pharmaceutical unit, said in a Reuters report. "If we can in the same time we're giving direct antivirals and blocking (virus) replication, activate the immune system and wake it up, maybe we can cause patients to clear HBV," Blatt said. The company also said that hep B is far more prevalent than hep C in Asia. Other companies working on hepatitis B treatments include Arrowhead Research ($ARWR), Tekmira Pharmaceuticals and OnCore Biopharma."Both CTTQ and Janssen are long-time collaboration partners of WuXi," the company said in a separate statement. "In 2013, CTTQ signed a contract with WuXi to discover anti-HBV small-molecule drugs. WuXi provided end-to-end integrated research services on the compound that is the subject of this license agreement." Report

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