Janssen Announces Novel Mechanism of Action that Shows Promise Against Dengue in Data Published in Nature

Early-stage research suggests potential to prevent and treat all dengue serotypes
With no treatments available, dengue infects up to 400 million people each year and the pace of outbreaks is increasing.[1]
This research builds on Johnson & Johnson’s work to advance science against emerging and entrenched global public health threats

The Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) announced today, in collaboration with the KU Leuven Rega Institute and the KU Leuven Centre for Drug Design and Discovery (CD3), the publication of new preclinical data in the journal Nature showing that an early-stage compound with a novel mechanism of action could potentially treat all serotypes of dengue fever and provide a period of protection against acquiring the dengue virus. Janssen is now moving its dengue program into clinical development.

Data from the early-stage study suggest that an antiviral compound prevents the interaction between two viral proteins (NS3 and NS4B) that play an important role in the replication process of a virus, thereby stopping the ability of the virus to reproduce. This represents an entirely novel mechanism of antiviral action. The compound showed efficacy against dengue infection in a prophylactic setting, and rapid and significant reduction in viral load at peak viremia in a therapeutic model.

“This scientific breakthrough shows tremendous potential to treat and prevent all four dengue serotypes and help transform the world’s fight against this significant and growing public health threat,” said Paul Stoffels, M.D., Vice Chairman of the Executive Committee and Chief Scientific Officer, Johnson & Johnson. “We are hopeful that this early-stage science can ultimately translate into a meaningful difference for at risk communities. We look forward to working with our collaborators to accelerate clinical development.”

“As the climate continues to change and more communities are at risk, it is imperative that we advance our science to meet the needs of today and those to come,” said Ruxandra Draghia-Akli, M.D., Ph.D., Global Head of Global Public Health R&D at Janssen Research & Development, LLC. “Our breakthrough work in dengue signals what is possible when collaborative science is applied at the discovery phase and channeled toward great unmet need in public health.”

The Janssen dengue compound discovery program started in 2007. There are no therapeutics available to treat dengue, and research & development (R&D) has proven challenging, in part because of the existence of multiple dengue serotypes, each of which can cause reinfection and co-circulate in the same regions. In 2013, Janssen collaborated with Professor Johan Neyts and Suzanne Kaptein at the KU Leuven Rega Institute and Patrick Chaltin at Centre for Drug Design and Discovery (CD3), as well as their respective teams, to identify a compound series capable of inhibiting the virus in lab-grown cells and animals. This effort built upon four years of work on the novel antiviral inhibitor by KU Leuven Rega Institute, CD3, and the Wellcome Trust. The development of the compounds was accelerated through the expertise and collaboration of all partners. Janssen Pharmaceutica, N.V. licensed the compound series in 2015, and is continuing to advance the compound into clinical development.

Johnson & Johnson’s Commitment to Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) and Pandemic Preparedness
Johnson & Johnson is one of the few innovative healthcare companies in the world that is actively advancing science across multiple disease areas with the aim of strengthening global public health. This includes R&D efforts aimed at addressing pandemic threats including coronaviruses (including SARS-CoV-2), filoviruses (including Ebola) and flaviviruses (including dengue).

Janssen’s work against dengue is just one part of a larger commitment to address the burden of NTDs, a group of about 20 communicable diseases that cause debilitating conditions and affect more than 1.7 billion people in 149 countries around the world.

Since 2006, Johnson & Johnson has donated more than 1.7 billion doses of its medicine to treat intestinal worms and is working with partners to identify sustainable solutions to combat NTDs over the longer term. These initiatives include improving diagnostics and supporting the development of national monitoring and evaluation frameworks to allow for better data collection, more informed decision-making, and ultimately, targeted therapeutic interventions that have the potential to control NTDs in endemic countries. Johnson & Johnson is also investing in R&D for other NTDS, including snakebite, Chagas disease and leprosy.

Janssen thanks its strategic partners in the research and development of its dengue compound, including the KU Leuven Rega Institute, the KU Leuven Centre for Drug Design and Discovery (CD3), the Department of Infectious Diseases at Heidelberg University, the German Center for Infection Research, Unité des Virus Émergents, the Global Virus Network (GVN), Wellcome Trust and VLAIO.

About Johnson & Johnson
At Johnson & Johnson, we believe good health is the foundation of vibrant lives, thriving communities and forward progress. That’s why for more than 130 years, we have aimed to keep people well at every age and every stage of life. Today, as the world’s largest and most broadly-based healthcare company, we are committed to using our reach and size for good. We strive to improve access and affordability, create healthier communities, and put a healthy mind, body and environment within reach of everyone, everywhere. We are blending our heart, science and ingenuity to profoundly change the trajectory of health for humanity.

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