the war on rheumatoid arthritis

Janssen Pharmaceutical’s War on RA, November 3, 2016: To gain perspective on the war on rheumatoid arthritis from the point of view of a researcher, I spoke with Dan Baker, MD, Disease Area Leader, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Immunology Therapeutic Area, Janssen Research & Development, LLC.

Dr. Baker provided detailed responses to five questions about the development of biologic medications for RA. Janssen is the manufacturer developer of SIMPONI ARIA® (golimumab) infusion, SIMPONI® (golimumab) and REMICADE® (infliximab), which are  widely used medications in the treatment of RA.

I am pleased to offer Dr. Baker’s responses here:

How do research molecules get prioritized in the research and development (R&D) process? In other words, how are new treatments proposed? Is it driven by potential market size, promise of a treatment, past results?

Each Therapeutic Area within Janssen Research & Development is committed to advancing treatments for patients according to focused disease areas and continued unmet needs in these diseases. For the Immunology Therapeutic Area, these disease areas include inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis), rheumatoid arthritis (captures rheumatologic diseases like psoriatic arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis) and psoriasis.

Many of our scientists/researchers have experience working with and treating patients based on past practice and clinical experience, which I believe makes a difference in how we approach clinical development and keeping the needs of the patient front and center in everything that we do. Ongoing efforts to understand disease processes and identify new targets, together with several decades of experience in the discovery and development of therapeutics for autoimmune and inflammatory diseases, is the approach that we take to bringing forward new treatment options and solutions for patients which might take the form of biologic or small molecule medicines, as well as diagnostic and biomarker approaches, etc.

How do you include the consumer (patients) in the drug development process?

We have a deep-rooted focus on the patient at Janssen, and that directly relates to our being part of Johnson & Johnson, where the very first line of our credo captures our commitment and responsibility to patients.  This translates into the drug development in a few ways that I can share.  First, when we have an opportunity to invite a patient to share his or her story with our colleagues in R&D, we do so because it is deeply motivating for our scientists to hear the individual’s journey, and we have found that it is quite educational for the individual to see and learn about who we are and what we do. Certainly there are insights and learnings from those interactions that we consider in future plans.  Digital health and technology is an area where we are involving patients to apply their insights towards clinical trial innovations. For example, we developed the Remote Assessment in Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA-RA) app to capture disease symptoms and activity that we are evaluating to inform future approaches. We recently presented data from this approach at the European League Against Rheumatism meeting. We also involve patients and their feedback as considerations in the design and development of drug delivery devices for some of our biologic medicines.  We have opened our doors to a number of health advocates across our disease areas of focus as part of a program we call BioExperience to offer an opportunity to learn about the complexities of biologics and our focus on innovation, and to entertain their questions and comments. Those engagements have been quite informative and productive, and have given us even greater insights into patient insights and needs. Finally, we take an active role in participating in health authority efforts regarding the future of clinical development, most recently with the U.S. FDA’s patient-focused drug meeting on psoriasis held in March of this year and previously in an IBD-related workshop.

How are education tools developed that explain the difference between the mechanisms of action of various rheumatological drugs? For instance, JAK inhibitors versus TNF inhibitors?

One example of efforts in this regard is our partnership with Nature publishing to sponsor educational videos that align with our disease areas of focus. These videos are created through an independent, peer-reviewed process, and then are made available through various Nature distribution channels. Some of the videos that we have sponsored to date include:

Some medications are being developed as partnership projects. How do companies work together to foster innovation?

We welcome external collaborations. We realize innovative science is occurring all around the world, and beyond our scientific centers and laboratories. We often say “the world is our laboratory” to reflect the open innovation approach that we look to facilitate in partnering with academic centers; pharmaceutical, biotechnology and technology companies; and innovators from around the world who share our same vision to reshape immunology on behalf of patients living with immune diseases. A good example of many of the collaborations that we have underway and our focus on the future of immunology can be found in a recent article published by BioCentury, in which our leadership team was interviewed.

Do we still have hope for additional new medications in this space?

Absolutely. We are working to advance new therapeutics that bring deeper efficacy and remission, and improved safety profiles. At the same time, we are advancing scientific strategies and approaches intended to not only treat, but prevent, intercept and cure immune disease. Our vision is a world free from immune diseases, and that is what we are working towards.

Our current hope for relief is rooted in research centered in medication research. Dr. Baker represents leading edge thought about the future of medications.  The war on RA continues on many fronts. We fight daily and as Dr. Baker demonstrates, our allies are powerful.

Please join the fight.

This article is the second in a six-part series by Rick Phillips, titled “The War on RA.” The following installments will be published over the course of the next few weeks. Click here for part 1.