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J&J, Locus Biosciences to jointly develop drugs for respiratory tract infections

Johnson & Johnson is collaborating with Locus Biosciences Inc. to develop therapeutics intended to treat infections of the respiratory tract and other organ systems.

Under the partnership's terms, Locus Biosciences, a Morrisville, N.C.-based biotechnology company, will receive $20 million in initial payments and could receive up to $798 million in potential future development and commercial milestone payments, as well as royalties based on product sales.

J&J unit Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc. and Locus will jointly manufacture and commercialize CRISPR-Cas3-enhanced bacteriophage products targeting two key bacterial pathogens.

Locus Biosciences' CRISPR-engineered phage therapeutics uses a patented DNA-shredding technology to precisely and selectively remove unwanted bacteria from the human body without affecting the many other species of good bacteria, the company said. If proven safe and effective in clinical studies, these products could help fight antibiotic-resistant infections and other conditions caused by microbial imbalance.