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J&J (JNJ) Acquires Rights for Hemera Biosciences' Gene Therapy

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Johnson & Johnson’s (JNJ - Free Report) pharmaceutical unit, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc., announced that it has acquired rights to privately-owned biotechnology company Hemera Biosciences, LLC’s investigational gene therapy, HMR59.

HMR59 is a one-time, outpatient, intravitreal injection to help preserve vision in patients with geographic atrophy, a late-stage and severe form of age-related macular degeneration (AMD).  It is designed to increase the ability of retina cells to make a soluble form of CD59, helping prevent further damage to the retina and preserve vision.

The financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

The phase I study of HMR59 in patients with geographic atrophy is complete. A second phase I study evaluating HMR59 in patients with wet-AMD is currently conducting follow-up visits to evaluate long-term safety.

J&J’s shares have risen 1.6% in the year so far compared with the industry’s 2.2% growth.

The acquisition expands Janssen’s eye disease portfolio, which was established in 2018. The acquisition also strengthens its gene therapy capabilities. Since HMR59 is a one-time treatment, the market potential for the same is expected to be robust.

Geographic atrophy affects five million people worldwide. It is a leading cause of blindness in people above 50 years of age. There are currently no available therapies other than vitamins and low vision aids.

Other companies, which are evaluating treatments for this condition, include Apellis Pharmaceuticals (APLS - Free Report) , which is evaluating pegcetacoplan, an investigational, targeted C3 therapy, for the treatment of geographic atrophy.  IVERIC bio, Inc. (ISEE - Free Report) is evaluating Zimura (avacincaptad pegol) for the treatment of geographic atrophy secondary to AMD.

Zacks Rank & A Stock to Consider

J&J currently carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold).  A better-ranked stock in the healthcare space is Halozyme Therapeutics, Inc. (HALO - Free Report) , which carries a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here.

Halozyme’s earnings estimates have grown 18 cents for 2020 in the past 30 days.

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