Janssen Biotech has executed a licensing contract with Astellas Pharma for the worldwide development and commercialisation of an oral, small molecule Janus Kinase (JAK) inhibitor, ASP015K, except in Japan.

ASP015K is at present in Phase IIb studies evaluating the efficacy and safety of once-daily oral dosing, in the treatment of moderate-to-severe rheumatoid arthritis.

A Phase IIa study in the treatment of moderate-to-severe plaque psoriasis has been completed.

ASP105K blocks critical components of signalling mechanisms used by a number of inflammatory cytokines.

Janssen research and development immunology global therapeutic area head Dr Susan Dillon said; "We are committed to expanding the portfolio of new treatments for patients with serious immune-mediated diseases and are excited to add Astellas’ ASP015K to our pipeline."

According to the agreement, Janssen receives exclusive worldwide rights to develop and commercialise ASP015K as an oral treatment for immune-mediated inflammatory diseases, except in Japan. Astellas will continue developing ASP015K in Japan.

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Janssen will make an upfront payment as well as future milestone and royalty payments upon the achievement of certain development and commercialisation milestones.

Pursuant to the contract, Astellas is responsible for completing the ongoing Phase IIb studies while Janssen is responsible for all other development, clinical and regulatory filing activities in its territories.

Rheumatoid arthritis results in pain and inflammation, and in some cases, joint destruction and disability.

Psoriasis is a chronic inflammatory disease that results from the overproduction of skin cells.