GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) will reportedly pay up to $230 million to gain exclusive rights to a Phase I monoclonal antibody to treat severe asthma from Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen.

GSK will assume all activities worldwide once Janssen completes an ongoing Phase I trial.

Late last year, the FDA approved GSK’s Nucala (mepolizumab) to treat severe asthma specifically for those with an eosinophilic phenotype. This subset of asthma patients typically have tissue and sputum eosinophilia and the thickening of the basement membrane zone.

In addition to the variable upfront, which presumably hinges on the Phase I outcome, Janssen stands to gain additional, undisclosed development and first commercial sales milestones, in addition to tiered royalties and “further considerations” tied to sales.

The candidate in question is CNTO 7160, a monoclonal antibody that prevents interleukin-33 from binding to the ST2 receptor (IL-33R); it’s expected to be useful in severe asthma via the regulation of inflammatory cells that are key to asthma such as neutrophils and eosinophils.

“While current options for the treatment of mild to moderate asthma enable patients to achieve good control of their symptoms, there remains significant unmet need in severe patients,” said GSK Respiratory Head Dave Allen in a statement. “The IL-33 receptor antibody joins our diverse respiratory R&D portfolio of targeted biological therapies and offers the potential to block a fundamental driver of the disease.”

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