Biotech uncertainty after Johnson & Johnson pulls out of partnership with Capricor Therapeutics

Written by Freya Leask

Amid speculation that Capricor’s off-the-shelf cardiosphere-derived cells missed their target in a recent phase I/II study for cardiovascular disease, Johnson & Johnson has pulled out of their partnership after 3 and a half years.

After 3 and a half years, pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson (NJ, USA) is pulling out of a partnership signed in 2014 with Capricor Therapeutics (CA, USA) to develop their off-the-shelf cardiosphere-derived CAP-1002 therapy to treat cardiovascular disease. The deal, which initially brought Capricor US$12.5 million to continue their phase I/II study, could have yielded up to US$325 million in later milestone payments. However, although data from this study has not yet been released, there is speculation that this cell therapy has missed the target for this indication.

Interim results from another trial of CAP-1002, in Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), have shown promise; pursuing this indication would have put CAP-1002 outside the scope of the original agreement, something highlighted by Capricor CEO Linda Marbán.

The dissolution of this partnership has settled “uncertainty concerning the scope of the license for CAP-1002”, Marbán explained, allowing Capricor to seek new partners to explore CAP-1002’s potential new indication of DMD. A second clinical trial into CAP-1002 for DMD is planned in the second half of 2017 but the possibly loss of confidence by Johnson & Johnson in Capricor and the cell therapy industry could have longer-term effects.