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Astellas boosts vaccine ambitions

Forms alliance with ClearPath Development

Astellas has formed a strategic collaboration with Swiss company ClearPath Development aimed at developing a global vaccines franchise.

Towards the end of last year Astellas made its first major foray into the vaccine sector by setting up a subsidiary - called RSV Corp - to develop a vaccine for respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) licensed from Mymetics Corp in a deal valued at up to $82m plus royalties.

The formation of RSVC was the first play in the just-announced partnership with ClearPath, a consultancy which specialises in helping pharma companies expand their pipelines by bringing forward early-stage assets with a minimum of capital outlay.

Astellas wants to join a select group of pharma companies - which includes GlaxoSmithKline, Merck & Co, Pfizer, Novartis, and Sanofi Pasteur - that have identified mass market vaccines as a core research priority for the coming years.

Due to risk of the risks and costs associated with pharmaceutical R&D, some companies are increasingly attracted to the potential of vaccines, which can provide long-term, stable revenues if they become mandated by national healthcare systems, particularly in emerging markets.

A recently-published report by Visiongain predicted that the world vaccines market will reach a value of $48bn in 2018 and outstrip the growth of the overall pharma market between 2013 and 2023.

Astellas has agreed to fund the development of the RSV candidate through phase IIb testing, and sees significant potential for the candidate as there is currently no vaccine on the market for RSV infection. The virus can be particularly severe in infants and older adults and kills around 160,000 people a year worldwide.

The Japanese drugmaker has dipped its toe into the vaccines field in recent years - licensing a candidate against cytomegalovirus (CMV) from Vical in 2011 and launching a combined paediatric vaccine in its home market in 2012 for example - but the alliance with ClearPath suggests its ambitions in the sector are going up a gear.

The push into vaccines comes after Astellas announced a restructuring of its R&D operations, including the closure of a number of facilities.

Article by
Phil Taylor

6th January 2014

From: Research

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