Johnson & Johnson (J&J) has acquired Netherlands-based biopharmaceutical company Crucell for close to $2.4 billion dollars, moving J&J prominently into the arena of vaccine development, according to a company press release. This move comes after several years of partnership between the two companies. J&J acquired 18% of the company late in 2009, with the goal of forming a strategic alliance around the discovery, development, and commercialization of monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) and vaccines for the treatment and prevention of influenza, as well as other diseases.
Crucell’s focus is on the development, production, and marketing of vaccines, proteins, and antibodies that prevent and/or treat infectious disease. Their portfolio includes four pediatric vaccines including Quinvaxem, a fully liquid vaccine against five common childhood diseases. Quinvaxem is widely distributed in the developing world, and has sold more than 180 million doses since its launch in 2006. Other products in Crucell’s core portfolio include a vaccine against hepatitis B and a virosomal, adjuvanted vaccine against influenza. Crucell also markets travel vaccines, such as an oral anti-typhoid vaccine, an oral cholera vaccine, and the only aluminum-free hepatitis A vaccine on the market. Before being acquired by J&J, Crucell was the largest independent manufacturer of vaccines.
Crucell has a robust preclinical research program, and also licenses a human cell-line based manufacturing system for high-yield, large-scale production of vaccines, recombinant proteins and gene therapy products. J&J is a relative late-comer to this area of development. Vaccines have low profit margins due to the difficulty and expense associated with their manufacture, and so have received little interest from large pharmaceutical companies in the past. With the recognition that these qualities also make them resistant to competition from generic drugs, and with an expansion of the utility of vaccines beyond the pediatric market, many of the large pharmaceutical companies have increased their presence in this area. Acquisition of Crucell gives J&J a solid vaccine development platform.