Acambis seeks new customers for vaccine plant

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Related tags: Baxter, Biotechnology

UK biotechnology company Acambis is looking for new clients to take
up unused capacity at its facility in Massachusetts, US, now that
Baxter has pulled out of a manufacturing contract.

A spokesperson for the company said it now had to think about how it will best utilise the plant, given that 50 per cent of its capacity was accounted for by the Baxter project. Spare capacity is available for third-party manufacture, she noted, although the amount will depend on how Acambis decides to make use of the plant.

Under the terms of the agreement, signed in December 2000, Acambis had agreed to manufacture components for up to five of Baxter's bacterial vaccines. However, Baxter halted development of a number of these projects last year, and no longer needs the service.

The facility, at Canton, is capable of manufacturing bulk quantities of both bacterial and viral vaccines, and has been used to fulfil the requirements of the US government for smallpox vaccine, a contract which Acambis won with the help of Baxter (then a 20 per cent shareholder in the UK firm) in 2001.

The spokesperson stressed that the primary purpose of the facility is to serve Acambis' own manufacturing needs for its growing portfolio of in-house vaccines, including the smallpox vaccine franchise and its new-generation product ACAM2000, as well as vaccines for West Nile virus and its travel vaccine portfolio.

However, the company suffered a setback in its ACAM2000 programme last month when it had to halt Phase III trials of the vaccine after side effects were observed with both ACAM200 and a comparator product, Wyeth's Dryvax, which is already on the market.

Compensation package

Acambis will receive $19 million (€15.8m) in compensation payments for the termination of the contract, including an upfront fee of $9 million and two $5 million tranches in January 2005 and January 2006. Acambis has a five-year financing agreement with Baxter for the plant involving sublease repayments, which extends into 2006, but this is not affected by the compensation package.

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