Nabi up for sale, merger

By Anna Lewcock

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Nicotine

Nabi Biopharmaceuticals this week announced that is considering a
possible sale or merger of the company, with 'multiple entities'
apparently interested in the business.

Nabi has been restructuring and reshuffling for well over a year now, first announcing an exploration of strategic alternative back in September 2006, but will the search now refocused predominantly on a sale of merger of the company. The US firm has been busy divvying up and selling off parts of its business, with the firm's biologics business unit spun off and finally sold off to German firm Biotest in December for $185m. With a new president and CEO installed and a renewed focus on its vaccine pipeline, Nabi believes it is in a strong position, with an attractive organisation and improved financials, to put itself on the market and see who comes bidding. The main emphasis is on Nabi's two core vaccine candidates, NicVax and StaphVax, both of which the company sees as having significant market potential. NicVax is the more advanced product, a vaccine to treat nicotine addiction and prevent smoking relapse. During a conference call to discuss the company's latest moves, new CEO Raafat Fahim was quizzed about the smoking cessation product in light of the recent warnings of neuro-psychiatric problems associated with Pfizer's anti-smoking drug, Chantix/Champix (varenicline), and whether this could deter any potential buyers for the company. "The mechanism of action of Chantix is actually to block the nicotine receptors in the brain, in essence it works on the central nervous system,"​ said Fahim. "NicVax is a product that does not all at interact with the central nervous system…[it] prevents nicotine from accessing the brain completely, and therefore we believe that NIcVax would have a distinctive advantage over all other smoking cessation products simply because it does not work on the central nervous system." NicVax is due to enter Phase II immunogenicity studies in the first half of this year, with Phase III safety and efficacy trials planned for the second of 2008. Phase I clinical studies of StaphVax, the company's vaccine for Staphylococcus aureus​ infections, are expected to kick off in early 2009. Nabi was unwilling to put a price or timeline on it plans for merger or sale, though the 'strategic alternatives' process is a top priority for the firm over the course of 2008. Although insisting that the company is still at very early stages of its deliberations, and unable to provide much detail on potential partners or buyers, Fahim did admit that there was "lots of interest in our story and what we are doing…we certainly have interest from multiple entities."​ The company has said it plans to remain schtum regarding any developments on the sale/merger front until a specific transaction has been decided and agreed upon, but given the growing interest of big pharma in the biopharmaceuticals market, it's unlikely to stop mass speculation on Nabi's potential buyer or partner.

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