Johnson & Johnson (J&J) has announced it has entered into a definitive agreement with Numab Therapeutics to acquire its subsidiary, Yellow Jersey Therapeutics (YJT), expanding its immunology portfolio in a deal worth $1.25bn.

As part of the deal, which is set to close in the second half of 2024, J&J’s all-cash transaction to acquire YJT will provide the company with global rights to develop, manufacture and commercialise the subsidiary’s investigational, first-in-class bispecific antibody to treat atopic dermatitis (AD), NM26.

Currently the most common inflammatory skin disease worldwide, affecting more than 100 million people globally, AD is a condition that causes the skin to become itchy, dry and cracked.

Approximately 70% of patients with the heterogeneous disease being treated with current therapies do not achieve remission.

“To deliver durable, symptom-free remission for the millions of people living with AD, our medicines need to be tailored to target multiple disease-driving pathways in different patient subpopulations,” said David Lee, global immunology therapeutic area head, J&J Innovative Medicine.

Currently ready to enter phase 2 studies, NM26 targets two clinically proven pathways: the IL-4R alpha subunit, which triggers Th2-mediated skin inflammation in AD and IL-31, which impacts skin itch and subsequent scratching that worsens the disease.

In addition, the investigational bispecific antibody holds the potential to be efficacious in other inflammatory skin diseases involving Th2 inflammation and itch.

Candice Long, worldwide vice president, immunology, J&J, said that the acquisition “is the next chapter” in J&J’s immunology portfolio and aims to “deliver transformational efficacy for all patients living with immune-mediated diseases like AD”.

David Urech, founder and chief executive officer, Numab, commented: “We are thrilled to enter into this agreement with J&J and are confident they will be able to rapidly advance the development of NM26 for patients in need of a better treatment for AD and other conditions.”