Big Drugmaker Makes $321M Bet on Chimps

by Christopher Freeburn | May 31, 2013 3:28 pm

h1n1 shot vaccine 630[1]Pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK[2]) announced on Wednesday that it would acquire a Switzerland-based vaccine-maker[3].

GSK will pay $321 million for Okairos, which was spun off from Merck (MRK[4]) six years ago. Okairos has developed vaccines based on deactivated chimpanzee-derived adenoviruses, Reuters noted.

Adenoviruses are responsible for the common colds that afflict tens of millions of people every year. Consequently, resistance to human adenoviruses is fairly widespread.

Using adenoviruses derived from chimpanzees, however, allows the vaccines persist longer in the human body before they are detected by the immune system. The vaccines are designed to target certain T-cells, stimulating the body’s defenses against infection.

The vaccine technology has been tested in clinical trials against malaria and hepatitis C.

A GSK executive noted that the acquisition of Okairos gave the company a platform with which to build a “new generation of vaccines.”

Shares of GSK fell fractionally in Friday afternoon trading.

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