Takeda Pharmaceutical acquired Inviragen in an up-to-$250 million deal designed to bolster the vaccine-making capability that the Japanese pharma giant has spent more than a year building, the companies said today.

Takeda will pay $35 million up-front, and the remaining $215 million in potential payments tied to clinical development and commercial milestones as part of the deal, which the companies said was expected to close in the next few weeks pending customary conditions. Takeda will integrate Inviragen staffers into its vaccine business division.

“Takeda has taken another major step toward its goal of establishing a world-class global vaccine business by acquiring Inviragen and its advanced vaccine candidate against dengue, a serious mosquito-borne illness that threatens nearly half of the world’s population,” Rajeev Venkayya, M.D., executive vp and head of Takeda’s vaccine business division, said in a statement.

Inviragen’s product pipeline includes a vaccine candidate for chikungunya now in preclinical development, and a vaccine for hand, foot, and mouth disease that has completed a Phase I test. The company’s lead product is DENVax, a dengue fever vaccine that uses a weakened DEN-2 virus called strain PDK-53. Invented by researchers at CDC’s Division of Vector-Borne Diseases, DENVax attacks the disease’s other three viruses by replacing PDK-53 structural genes with the premembrane and envelope genes of DEN-1, DEN-3, or DEN-4.

Inviragen is collaborating with the International Vaccines Institute on development of DENVax, now under study in an additional Phase Ib clinical study in the U.S. and a Phase II clinical study in the U.S. (Puerto Rico), Colombia, Singapore, and Thailand.

Headquartered in Fort Collins, CO, Inviragen has a facility in Madison, WI, and a vaccine development center in Singapore, which will now be used for enhancing Takeda’s core vaccine R&D capabilities, the companies said.

“This acquisition combines Inviragen’s expertise in viral vaccine research and development and our extensive worldwide network of preclinical and clinical collaborators with Takeda’s resources, product development expertise, and global reach. Together we are well-positioned to bring these promising vaccine candidates to the market,” Inviragen CEO Dan Stinchcomb, Ph.D., said in the statement.

The Invitragen deal comes seven months after Takeda acquired LigoCyte Pharmaceuticals for $60 million up-front plus undisclosed development milestones. LigoCyte’s lead product was a norovirus vaccine that was the only one in clinical trials when Takeda bought the company. It is now in an ongoing Phase I/II study that was not recruiting participants as of February 1, according to Clinicaltrials.gov.

Takeda launched its vaccine division in January 2012, soon after naming as head of R&D Tadataka Yamada, M.D., who previously worked at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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