Reuters. File photo. Johnson & Johnson’s corporate logo is displayed on a screen to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the company’s listing on the New York New York Stock Exchange.

By Manas Mishra.

(Reuters) – Johnson & Johnson agreed on Wednesday to buy Momenta Pharmaceuticals Inc. for about $6.5 billion to add muscle to its portfolio of drugs for hard-to-treat autoimmune diseases.

The deal gives J&J’s Janssen unit access to Momenta’s experimental therapy nipocalimab, which is being tested for myasthenia gravis, a neuromuscular disorder that causes muscle weakness, as well as other diseases in which the immune system attacks the body.

J&J hopes the drug will be approved to treat a variety of diseases and eventually lead to blockbuster sales as the company seeks to grow its biggest business with a new class of drugs.

“Janssen will have the potential to launch multiple new drugs, many of which are first-in-class indications, with the potential to achieve significant peak annual sales, some of which could exceed $1 billion,” Johnson & Johnson said in a statement.

Shares of Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Momenta rose 68.8 percent to $52, just shy of its $52.50 offering price.

BTIG analyst Thomas Shrader said: “We find this deal moderately surprising because we think each of Momenta’s assets is a bit tricky to develop.” He added that it was hard to imagine Momenta making a higher bid.

J&J’s offer for Momenta comes days after France’s Sanofi (NASDAQ:) reached a $3.7 billion deal to acquire Principia Biopharma’s (NASDAQ:) pipeline of autoimmune disease treatments.

J&J has sold off divisions in recent years, such as one that makes medical devices for diabetes care, as it focuses more on better-performing businesses such as cancer treatment.

The company, which is also one of the drugmakers bidding to develop a coronavirus vaccine, recently signed agreements with the U.S. and U.K. for potential future vaccine doses.

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2020-08-19