Monday, July 9, 2007

Novavax deal with Wyeth to help vaccine programs

Rockville biotech obtains rights to patented technology for up to $5 million

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Rockville biotech Novavax will be getting some help from pharmaceutical giant Wyeth for its vaccine development.

Novavax will obtain the rights to a patent application that covers a virus-like particle technology owned by Wyeth, of Madison, N.J. In exchange, Novavax has agreed to pay an unspecified upfront payment, annual license fees, milestone payments and royalties on product sales that could total $5 million through next year.

The technology is key for Novavax because it is developing pandemic and seasonal influenza vaccines based on the VLP technology, which scientists believe is incapable of causing infection or disease, according to Novavax information.

Novavax focuses on developing vaccines to protect against pandemic influenza, seasonal flu and other viral diseases. Its particulate vaccines closely match disease-causing viruses, but do not have the genetic material to cause disease, providing the potential for greater immune protection at lower doses than current vaccines.

‘‘We are delighted to have completed this license agreement with Wyeth and see this license as another important step in building a strong intellectual property position for our influenza vaccine programs,” Novavax president and CEO Rahul Singhvi said in a statement.

Earlier this year Novavax announced it was planning to start human trials this year on an avian flu vaccine using a recombinant DNA technology called VLT, to make vaccines from particles of flu viruses grown in insect cell cultures.

Gaithersburg biotech MedImmune Inc. once had an agreement with Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, the Collegeville, Pa., division of Wyeth, for developing and marketing its FluMist nasal flu vaccine.