Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics negotiated a worldwide, exclusive license to a novel preclinical-stage vaccine against meningitis B developed by researchers at Imperial College, London.
As part of the deal, Novartis is also putting £1 million (about $1.62 million) into continuing R&D on the vaccine by the Imperial team. The agreement, made through the University’s commercialization arm, Imperial Innovations, also includes an up-front fee, license payments, and development milestones plus sales royalties.
Meningitis B vaccines have been elusive for two main reasons, according to Novartis: Unlike other serogroups, MenB polysaccharide produces only a poor response from the immune system, and some MenB antigens are similar to glycoproteins found in humans, prompting concerns about autoimmunity.
Novartis’ in-house efforts to develop a vaccine against meningitis B applies a technique called reverse vaccinology. Potential vaccine candidates were created by analyzing the entire genome sequence of a highly powerful MenB strain, the company explains. Through genetic engineering and from the investigation of 600 potential proteins, Novartis scientists identified 28 candidates against a wide range of strains, representative of global diversity.
Building on this genomics approach, Novartis is developing a recombinant protein vaccine to offer protection against multiple strains of MenB. Phase II trials in adults have demonstrated satisfactory safety, tolerability, and immunogenicity, the firm points out. Preliminary data analysis of on-going Phase II trials in infants seems to confirm the positive results observed in adults, Novartis continues.
Clinical trials are also under way in New Zealand with a vaccine against strains of meningococcal B specific to that country. The company also has a quadrivalent meningococcal conjugate vaccine Menveo in Phase III studies around the world. It is designed to offer protection in all age groups against serogroups A, C, Y, and W-135.