Janssen Sciences Ireland to sell $115m rare drug rights

By Pádraig Hoare

Janssen Sciences Ireland is to sell the rights to a drug that treats a rare disease to UK-based biopharmaceutical firm EUSA Pharma for $115m (€96.6m) in cash.

EUSA, which is focused on oncology and rare diseases, said it had agreed with Janssen Sciences Ireland, a subsidiary of Janssen R&D Ireland, to buy the global rights to Sylvant, a drug that treats Castleman’s disease.

Castleman’s disease is a disorder of the lymphatic system in which cells in lymph nodes start growing abnormally, causing benign tumours.

The disease affects several lymph nodes as well as other organs in the body. Symptoms can include swelling of the liver and spleen.

Despite side effects, Sylvant has shown beneficial effects by reducing tumour size and symptoms in patients with multicentric Castleman’s disease over time, according to the European Medicines Agency.

The drug was first approved in the US in 2014 and is now approved in more than 40 countries.

The rare disease is estimated to affect up to 1,900 patients in the US with a similar number in Europe.

Janssen Sciences Ireland, based in Ringaskiddy, is part of Johnson & Johnson. It announced a €300m expansion at its Cork site in October last year.

Janssen Sciences Ireland manufactures products for the treatment of conditions that include rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, and cancer.

Established in 2005, there are more than 550 people working at its Ringaskiddy facility.

Johnson & Johnson employs more than 2,700 in the Republic, at 11 sites in Cork, Dublin, and Limerick. The overall operation comprises six manufacturing plants, four commercial offices, and an IT centre.

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