J&J still sees plenty of opportunity in crowded immunology markets—starting with psoriasis

SAN FRANCISCO—Johnson & Johnson knows the immunology market is crowded. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t still see tons of opportunity there.

“We do look at immunology as being very, very attractive, and in certain areas, there’s so much unmet medical need,” Jennifer Taubert, executive vice president and worldwide pharma chairman, said Monday during a fireside chat at the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference.

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One of those areas—psoriasis—might surprise investors who have watched Novartis’ Cosentyx, Eli Lilly’s Taltz, Valeant’s Siliq, J&J’s own Tremfya and Sun Pharmaceutical’s Ilumya enter the market over the last few years. But the way Taubert sees it, the market is still “dramatically underpenetrated” by biologics.

And therein lies the opportunity for Tremfya, a drug that’s made big strides despite some big-name competitors that got a head start. “Not only do we have the right product, we’ve actually done the right clinical scientific work to be able to demonstrate” it, Taubert said.

She pointed to a head-to-head superiority study versus AbbVie behemoth Humira, a head-to-head against J&J’s Stelara and, most recently, a head-to-head showdown with Cosentyx that came out in Tremfya’s favor.

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“Even though it is relatively speaking a bit more crowded and competitive, there’s still a very compelling value proposition there,” she added.

And that’s not the only area in which J&J sees room for growth. The company would love to eventually play in fields such as lupus and atopic dermatitis, Taubert said. Stelara, which is showing “very strong success” in a new Crohn’s indication, could also move over to ulcerative colitis.

Of course, those arenas boast their own share of tough competitors—Sanofi and Regeneron’s Dupixent, for one, last year won an atopic dermatitis nod, and the product is expected to rake in blockbuster sales. But a little rivalry won’t deter J&J. As long as you have the “right value, the right product and the right data … you can bring that forward very successfully,” Taubert said.