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Sanofi taps CureVac expertise in major vaccine deal

Germany-based biotech's 'big pharma' deal to develop prophylactic and therapeutic vaccine projects

Sanofi Pasteur has signed a wide-ranging licensing deal with CureVac that will see the two companies work on a number of prophylactic and therapeutic vaccine projects.

The alliance will last four years and is the first major partnership for Germany-based CureVac, providing an endorsement of its vaccine development technology and accelerating development of its infectious disease portfolio.  To date the company has focused mainly on oncology.

Securing a 'big pharma' partnership was a major objective for the company in 2011, according to CureVac's chief executive Ingmar Hoerr. "This multi-year collaboration will allow us to significantly strengthen our technology platform and to scale it up for commercial vaccination purposes," he said.

The deal with Sanofi's vaccine unit spans several infectious disease pathogens, and could generate €101.5m in upfront and milestone payments for each pathogen, rising to €150.5m if the French pharmaceutical giant elects to develop both a therapeutic and prophylactic vaccine against the target.

That licensing agreement will run in parallel with a second project, bringing together Sanofi, CureVac and French biotechnology venture In Cell Art in a consortium to develop a number of messenger RNA (mRNA)-based vaccines for infectious diseases. The $33.1m project is co-funded by the US Department of Defense via its Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

In Cell Art will contribute a nanocarrier technology designed to make it easier to transport the RNA-based vaccines into cells. Sanofi has also signed a non-exclusive option and license agreement to access the nanocarrier technology.

CureVac has developed a platform technology called RNActive which is based on the use of mRNA, encoding vaccine antigens, which can be injected directly into patients. Once in situ, the mRNA is taken up into skin cells and the antigens start to be produced by the cellular machinery.

Earlier this year the company reported the results of a phase I/IIa study of CV9201, a vaccine targeting non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), showing that the vaccine was able to generate an immune response in 84 per cent of patients. Similar immune responses were seen in an earlier trial of a prostate cancer vaccine called CV9103.

16th November 2011

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