Big Pharma backs CMV vaccine

Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis has teamed up with an American biotech company to develop the first commercial vaccine for cytomegalovirus (CMV), which kills or disables tens of thousands of infants every year. Because CMV infection does not usually lead to detectable symptoms in otherwise healthy people, only a handful of researchers have endeavored to develop a CMV vaccine. In fact, the virus is one of the top causes of birth defects; a 1999 National Academy of Sciences report estimated t

Bob Grant
Bob Grant

Bob Grant is Editor in Chief of The Scientist, where he started in 2007 as a Staff Writer.

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Jan 4, 2009
Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis has teamed up with an American biotech company to develop the first commercial vaccine for cytomegalovirus (CMV), which kills or disables tens of thousands of infants every year. Because CMV infection does not usually lead to detectable symptoms in otherwise healthy people, only a handful of researchers have endeavored to develop a CMV vaccine. In fact, the virus is one of the top causes of birth defects; a 1999 National Academy of Sciences report estimated that CMV costs the US as much as $4.4 billion per year. (See our 2006 article on linkurl:CMV vaccine;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/36883/ development efforts). The vaccine candidate, AVX601, was created by scientists at North Carolina-based AlphaVax and has fared well in a linkurl:phase I clinical trial;http://www.alphavax.com/docs/news/news_25.pdf on healthy adults. AVX601 is a single-cycle particle vaccine that carries RNA encoding three antigens--phosphoprotein 65, immediate early protein I, and glycoprotein B--from the CMV virus, and the...
which kills or disables tens of thousands of infants every year. Because CMV infection does not usually lead to detectable symptoms in otherwise healthy people, only a handful of researchers have endeavored to develop a CMV vaccine. In fact, the virus is one of the top causes of birth defects; a 1999 National Academy of Sciences report estimated that CMV costs the US as much as $4.4 billion per year. (See our 2006 article on linkurl:CMV vaccine;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/36883/ development efforts). The vaccine candidate, AVX601, was created by scientists at North Carolina-based AlphaVax and has fared well in a linkurl:phase I clinical trial;http://www.alphavax.com/docs/news/news_25.pdf on healthy adults. AVX601 is a single-cycle particle vaccine that carries RNA encoding three antigens--phosphoprotein 65, immediate early protein I, and glycoprotein B--from the CMV virus, and the vaccine was shown to raise levels of neutralizing antibodies and antigen-specific T cells in phase I trial subjects. Now that it has licensed the technology, Novartis will marshal the compound through phase II trials, which are slated to commence sometime this year, according to a linkurl:statement;http://www.novartis.com/newsroom/media-releases/en/2008/1279693.shtml from the company. Janice Kimpel, AlphaVax's vice president of business development, told __The Scientist__ that Novartis plans to develop the vaccine to target adolescent women before they become pregnant and pass CMV on to their unborn children. According to a statement from Novartis, the company paid $20 million (USD) for the rights to AphaVax's CMV vaccine program. Under the deal, Novartis also has an option to make an equity investment of four millions shares at the end of phase II clinical trials. AlphaVax will get milestones and royalties.
**__Related stories:__***linkurl:A Long Shot on Cytomegalovirus;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/36883/
[December 2006]*linkurl:Cytomegalovirus cell receptor;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/21486/
[24 July 2003]

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