Johnson & Johnson resumes merger talks with Actelion Pharmaceuticals

US healthcare giant Johnson & Johnson (J&J) has resumed talks with Swiss biopharmaceutical company Actelion Pharmaceuticals, just a week after talks broke down on a potential deal.

In separate news releases, both companies confirmed media reports that they had entered into ''exclusive negotiations,'' but cautioned that there was no assurance that an actual transaction would be signed as a result of these talks.

The latest release comes after media reported that French drug giant Sanofi was in advance talks with Actelion after J&J had earlier ended talks because both companies were unable to reach a deal. (See: Actelion says J&J backs off, in talks with another suitor) Actelion, run by its founder and CEO Jean-Paul Clozel, has three main units - consumer, medical devices and pharmaceuticals.

Founded in 1997, Actelion is Europe's biggest biotech firm with 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 oral 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 $22 billion and annual revenues of $1.7 billion.

Actelion has recently introduced two new lung medicines Opsumit and Uptravi that are poised to become blockbusters over the next three years. Both drugs are on track to reach approximately $2 billion each in peak annual sales, according to Wall Street analysts.

Both these drugs will reduce dependence on Tracleer since it is expected to face generic competition in 2017. Tracleer currently rakes in nearly $1 billion or around 46 per cent of its annual sales.

The company is also counting on Opsumit and Uptravi, which combined are forecast to bring in nearly 4.5 billion francs in annual sales by 2020, according to Reuters data.