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Pfizer drops Celldex drug

Pfizer is exiting a partnership with Celldex that had been aimed at developing rindopepimut – a therapeutic vaccine for brain cancer

Pfizer is exiting a partnership with the biotech company Celldex Therapeutics that had been aimed at developing and commercialising Celldex's rindopepimut (CDX-110), a therapeutic vaccine for brain cancer that is in phase II clinical development.

Pfizer said it terminated the agreement because the product is no longer a "strategic priority," according to Celldex. Rindopepimut, which targets the tumour-specific molecule epidermal growth factor receptor variant III (EGFRvIII), has successfully met its safety and efficacy endpoints in clinical trials for glioblastoma multiforme. The therapy has been granted both fast-track and orphan drug designations by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Celldex will regain full worldwide rights to develop and commercialise the product as of November 1. During a conference call with investors and financial analysts, Anthony Marucci, Celldex president and CEO, said that the two companies have entered into a 60-day transition period for the drug, and that the agreement with Pfizer limits the information that the biotech company can disclose during that period. "We will say more in November," he promised.

However, he suggested that Celldex will likely take the product through phase III development itself, calling the end of the Pfizer deal a "tremendous opportunity" for the company.

Marucci noted that Celldex has grown significantly in its capabilities since the deal with Pfizer was signed two-and-a-half years ago. The company has built capabilities for clinical development through phase III during that time, and has gone from having 25 employees to about 100, he said.

He also pointed out that Celldex ended the most recent quarter with $65m in cash, cash equivalents and marketable securities and said that the company would likely pursue financing to enable the continued development of rindopepimut.

Pfizer Vaccines entered into the global agreement with Celldex, then known as AVANT Immunotherapeutics, in April 2008. The deal called for Pfizer to make $40m in upfront payments, as well as a $10m equity investment in the biotech company, and to fund all development costs. Celldex also stood to receive milestone payments exceeding $390m for successful development and commercialisation and would have been entitled to double-digit royalties on any product sales.

7th September 2010

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