Crucell up on MedImmune deal

By Anna Lewcock

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Crucell, Immune system, Bacteria

Following the shaky moment Crucell experienced last month after the
failure of Merck's HIV drug, share prices had a healthy boost this
morning on the news that MedImmune will be collaborating with the
Dutch firm to develop new antibodies for hospital acquired
infections.

The news will be music to the ears of Crucell stakeholders, who were anxious as to the impact that the unsuccessful HIV drug, produced using the company's PER.C6 technology, would have on the firm's prospects. The MedImmune deal, however, could bring in more than $40m (€28.2) in upfront, annual and milestone payments, according to Crucell, not to mention the R&D funding and undisclosed royalties on product sales. The collaboration announced this morning is an exclusive licensing and research deal to further develop and commercialise one of Crucell's panels of bacterial antibodies, primarily to treat and prevent hospital acquired bacterial infections. MedImmune has been granted an exclusive license to work on the antibodies within one of Crucell's MAbstract technology programmes, as well as having access to the Dutch firm's antibody capabilities for further R&D. The MAbstract antibody technology uses a subtraction method of selection in generating human antibodies, which Crucell says is not available with other technologies. The proprietary technology can be used for fast selection of monoclonal specificities and to identify unique targets on proteins, viruses, bacteria and live cells or tissues. It can also be used to identify the binding regions of antibodies on antigens, to help with development of vaccines or small molecule inhibitors. Two years ago Crucell announced a number of antibody discovery programmes touching on hospital acquired infections, including a partnership with ACE BioSciences and Harvard Medical School, and a €2m grant from the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs dedicated specifically to applying the MAbstract technology to discover antibodies against resistant bacterial infections. According to Crucell, today's deal with MedImmune is to work in one of five areas specific to hospital acquired infections, with Crucell independently working on antibody treatments in the other four areas. Although results from the collaboration are unlikely to emerge for several years, the deal is seen as an "important validation​" of Crucell's technology, and a positive extension of its business. Crucell's shares showed a healthy jump following the release of the news this morning, hitting around the €14.90 mark at mid-morning. This will be welcome news after the knock that share prices took at the end of September, when the news of Merck's failed HIV drug (developed using Crucell's PER.C6 technology) caused angst among Crucell investors. Share prices fell to nearer €13.50 on the news, and prompted Crucell to issue a statement reassuring investors that the Merck failure was no reflection on the Crucell technology, and would not have any impact on the company's financials for the year. On any impact beyond this year, however, Crucell representatives were unwilling to comment. The company was also reluctant to comment on how today's news could repair some of the damage caused by last month's episode, choosing only to say that such a collaboration with annual, milestone and royalty payments will "strengthen​" Crucell's position. Having MedImmune onboard and backing the company's technology will presumably prove a helping hand in terms of PR and help restore any lost investor confidence, not to mention the cash injection this latest deal will bring to the company coffers.

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