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Pfizer buys majority stake in Redvax

Will see the US pharma company gain access to early stage vaccine projects

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Pfizer has acquired a controlling interest in the privately owned Swiss biotech firm Redvax to help advance its early stage research programmes.

The deal will provide the US pharma giant access to a pre-clinical human cytomegalovirus (CMV) vaccine candidate, as well as intellectual property and a technology platform related to a second, as yet undisclosed, vaccine programme.

CMV is a herpes virus, infecting 50-90% of the adult population, with a majority remaining without symptoms.

A large segment of young adults, especially women of childbearing age who remain CMV negative, are at high risk of CMV infection during pregnancy and of passing the infection on to the unborn child.

There are potentially serious and life-long consequences for babies born with the disease. One out of every five children born with CMV infection may experience hearing loss and severe neurologic disorders.

More children have disabilities due to congenital CMV than other well-known infections and syndromes, including Down's syndrome, fetal alcohol syndrome, spina bifida and pediatric HIV/AIDS.

The deal will add to Pfizer's portfolio of vaccines, which include inoculations against Meningococcal B, hospital-acquired Staphylococcus aureus infection and Clostridium difficile colitis. The company is also developing therapeutic vaccines for smoking cessation and allergic asthma.

“We are working to bring innovative vaccines to market that prevent and treat serious diseases,” said Kathrin Jansen, senior VP and CSO for vaccine research and early development for Pfizer.

“Through the acquisition of the Redvax innovative CMV vaccine platform and expertise we will seek to develop a vaccine to prevent a difficult disease that can have a devastating and lifelong impact on young children.”

No financial details of the deal have been disclosed. This rounds off a busy M&A period for Pfizer which just a fortnight ago partnered with Opko Health on a late stage, long acting growth hormone, paying $295 million upfront and up to $275 million more on regulatory milestones.

This was hard on the heels of an earlier gene therapy pact with Spark Therapeutics, which itself came several weeks after Pfizer made an $850 million payment to partner with Merck KGaA on a pre-clinical immuno-oncology programme.

However Pfizer is looking increasingly unlikely to gain the acquisition it was chasing for most of 2014 – that of AstraZeneca, which rejected a $118bn attempt to merge the Anglo-Swedish firm with Pfizer in May last year.

AZ and Pfizer can now under British takeover rules came back to the table for a new deal, but AZ has embarked on an aggressive independent strategy, whilst Pfizer's recent spate of deals suggests it may now be looking for smaller bolt-on deals, given that AZ continues to rebuff its advances. 

CMV costs

The Institute of Medicine (IOM) has ranked the development of a CMV vaccine as a 'highest priority' because of the lives it would save and the disabilities it would prevent.

The estimated costs associated with CMV disease for the US health care system amounts to around $1.86bn every year.

Christian Schaub, chief executive of Redbiotec and managing director of Redvax, which is a subsidiary of Redbiotec, said: “We are pleased to have completed this deal with Pfizer, a global leader in vaccines. This represents an important step toward the development of a much needed vaccine for CMV, a disease that has a devastating impact on children and families.

“We believe that combining Redvax's assets with Pfizer's commitment, expertise and resources will significantly enhance the potential of developing this important vaccine.”

Article by
Ben Adams

7th January 2015

From: Sales

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