Johnson & Johnson agrees to buy La Jolla biotech company Ambrx for $2 billion

Natallie Rocha


Biopharma conglomerate Johnson & Johnson announced it will buy La Jolla-based Ambrx for $2 billion to gain access to its promising pipeline of cancer therapies.

J&J will buy the company for $28 per share in cash — about double Ambrx’s closing price Jan. 5. The transaction is expected to close in the first half of this year.

Ambrx’s stock price more than doubled Jan. 8 and closed at $27.47 per share.

Once the deal is finalized, “Ambrx will be integrated into Johnson & Johnson’s oncology R&D team, which sits within Johnson & Johnson’s larger innovative medicine business,” according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing.

Ambrx had 87 employees as of Sept. 30 and is traded on the Nasdaq Global Select Market. The merger with Johnson & Johnson is expected to help Ambrx researchers accelerate the company’s clinical study of advanced prostate cancer as well as its pipeline of novel product candidates, according to the announcement.

Ambrx will remain an independent company until the transaction closes. It isn’t clear whether there will be changes to the company’s leadership structure, workforce or office presence following completion of the merger.

“This announcement is the culmination of two decades of scientific work, combined with the Ambrx team’s talent, hard work and innovation,” Ambrx Chief Executive Daniel O’Connor said in a statement. “I look forward to what Ambrx will achieve as part of Johnson & Johnson.”

Ambrx — headquartered at 10975 N. Torrey Pines Road near Torrey Pines Golf Course — was spun out from La Jolla-based Scripps Research in 2003. It pioneered the platform for incorporating synthetic amino acids into proteins used in precision medicine and immuno-oncology therapies.

Ambrx announced an initial public offering in 2014 but backed out. In 2021, it joined the tidal wave of San Diego companies debuting on the public market.

The La Jolla biotech specializes in antibody drug conjugates, or ADCs, which use antibodies to selectively deliver medications to specified targets. As a cancer treatment, this method of delivering medication — often chemotherapy drugs aimed at cancer cells — seeks to minimize damage to healthy cells.

Ambrx’s therapeutics are aimed at metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer, metastatic HER2+ breast cancer and renal cell carcinoma, a form of kidney cancer.

There has been growing interest in the potential of antibody drug conjugates among Johnson & Johnson’s competitors. Major drug companies such as Pfizer, AbbVie and Merck have made similar deals for ADC companies in the past year. ◆

Natallie Rocha

2024-01-09 20:00:43 , La Jolla News – La Jolla Light

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