GSK's €250m Acquisition Brings T-Cell Vaccine Tech In-House
The pharma giant shelled out €250m ($325m) on Swiss vaccine developer Okairos AG yesterday, adding Okairos’ adenovirus vector technology and boosting its own pipeline in T-cell vaccines against a range of infectious diseases.
This technology platform was, according to GSK spokesperson Kalpesh Joshi, the main driver behind the deal. “It bridges a capability gap and so bringing that in-house made sense from a business perspective,” he told in-Pharmatechnologist.com.
The proprietary tech is currently in early stage development but works by stimulating responses from CD8+ T cells which are not reached by existing vaccines. These T cells are highly potent and have been found by Okairos to kill disease cells in both non-human primates and humans.
According to Joshi, there are other technologies in development targeting these specific cells but “Okairos’ has shown the highest level of maturity.” He added: “GSK carefully considers all options before making bolt-on acquisitions.”
GSK will pick up a pipeline that could provide lucrative as the technology focuses on diseases for which there is currently no effective prophylactic or therapeutic vaccine. Okairos - spun out from Merck & Co in 2007 - is currently in Phase 2 clinical trials with both its malaria and hepatitis C programmes, and is also developing vaccines for HIV, RSV, TB and cancers.
“The technology could open up the possibility of being used in other disease areas but it is at an early stage and so we wouldn’t want to speculate on that.”
GSK’s Vaccine Interest
Joshi said: “The intention is that this platform will sit alongside our existing capability and equally, the assets we are acquiring will supplement ours currently in development."
Earlier this year, the company began work on a low-cost manufacturing platform licensed from the UK National Institute for Biological Standards and Control (NIBSC) in order to produce polio vaccines for developing countries.
Furthermore, the company has boosted its vaccine development with a series of other deals, including forming a joint venture with Indian firm Biological E for a 6-in-1 paediatric vaccine in January, the acquisition of its influenza vaccine Chinese joint venture in 2011, and the licensing of the StabyExpress technology from Delphi Genetics in 2010.
According to the company, vaccines contributed 13% of the Group’s total revenue for last year.