Johnson & Johnson in talks to buy Swiss biotechnology firm Actelion

US healthcare giant Johnson & Johnson (J&J) has approached Swiss biotechnology firm Actelion Ltd about a potential takeover, Bloomberg yesterday reported, citing people it said were familiar with the matter.

Talks are still at an early stage after J&J made an initial offer, and Actelion is working with an adviser to explore options, the report said.

The move comes two months after J&J agreed to buy Abbott Laboratories' eye care business for about $4.325 billion. (See: Abbott Laboratories to sell eye care business to Johnson & Johnson for $4.325 bn)

Founded in 1997 and based in Basel, Actelion is Europe's biggest biotech firm having 30 affiliates around the world, including the US, Canada, Brazil, Australia, Japan, Switzerland and a number of EU countries.

The company is focused on the discovery, development and commercialisation of innovative drugs for diseases with significant unmet medical needs.

Its portfolio of drugs includes Tracleer, an orally available endothelin receptor antagonist, the first oral treatment approved for pulmonary arterial hypertension; Veletri, an intravenous prostacyclin, which removes the need for patients to carry ice packs; Opsumit, an oral endothelin receptor antagonist; Uptravi, the only approved oral, selective IP receptor agonist targeting the prostacyclin pathway in pulmonary arterial hypertension and Ventavis, an inhaled formulation of iloprost.

Actelion was initially financed with venture capital provided through a syndicate including Atlas Venture, Sofinnova and HealthCap.

The Swiss stock exchange-listed company has a market cap of $17 billion and annual revenues of around $1.7 billion.

The company is run by CEO and co-founder Jean-Paul Clozel, who is also one of the company's largest shareholders.