Vertex sells Incivo royalty rights for $152M

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (AP) — Vertex Pharmaceuticals Inc. is selling its product royalty rights for the hepatitis C treatment Incivo for $152 million to Johnson & Johnson subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceutica.

Vertex said Wednesday that Janssen will make the cash payment in the fourth quarter and then stop paying royalties in 2014. Cambridge, Mass.-based Vertex plans to use the money to bolster its drug development pipeline, including its research into cystic fibrosis.

Vertex said last month that it planned to cut 370 jobs, or 15 percent of its workforce, due to competition from other hepatitis C treatments.

Hepatitis C is a blood-borne disease that causes liver damage and is blamed for 15,000 deaths in the U.S. each year. Drugmakers see hepatitis treatments as a potentially lucrative market because the disease is expected to grow into a major public health problem as the baby-boom generation ages.

In 2011, the FDA approved two new drugs that raised the cure rate when combined with the older treatments

Last month, a panel of Food and Drug Administration advisers voted unanimously in favor of a highly anticipated hepatitis C drug from Gilead Sciences Inc. The FDA is expected to make a decision on that drug by Dec. 8.

Vertex shares closed at $62.38 on Wednesday and have climbed about 49 percent so far this year.

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