US drug maker Johnson & Johnson has acquired an 18 per cent stake in its Dutch counterpart Crucell in a move which it hopes will lead it to developing a universal flu vaccine.
Crucell has demonstrated the development of antibodies which can fight a broad range of influenza strains, including bird and swine flu. The vaccine the company is working on is said to be more encompassing and effective than the current market leader Tamiflu.
Paul Stoffels, is head of research at Johnson & Johnson. “Each year, vaccines must be formulated to address the current influenza strain,” he said. “A universal antibody or vaccine that protects against a broad range of strains would be an important advance in helping doctors and nurses manage the annual influenza season and control acute epidemic and pandemic outbreaks.”
Crucell sparked interest among investors after it demonstrated its research in a Science magazine. It said it chose Johnson and Johnson to sell a stake to because their offer included the best profit return prospects and the best chance of the product being developed to its full potential, rather than being sidelined to protect existing markets. This is because Johnson & Johnson do not currently hold one of the leading positions in the vaccine markets and will therefore be keen to bestow the necessary focus upon it.
The deal, announced yesterday, is worth $440 million (€301.8m).
Last week Johnson and Johnson’s McNeil unit decided to voluntarily recall 57 variants of the children’s version of its Tylenol painkilling product.
The company said it found B. cepacia bacteria in some unused raw material from batches produced between April and June. No bacterium has been detected in any finished products but the company decided to issue the recall as a precaution following discussions with the Food and Drug Administration.
A list of the products affected and their lot numbers is available at www.tylenol.com