Imugene said today it is acquiring 100% of Biolife Science, in a deal among Australian biotechs that will give the buyer access to a pipeline of cancer immunotherapies, led by a candidate that has completed a Phase I study.

Biolife now licenses rights to HER-Vaxx, a cancer immunotherapy platform that targets HER-2/neu and associated tumors, including breast cancer and gastric cancer. Developed by scientists at the University Medical School in Austria, HER-Vaxx is set to launch a Phase II trial that, subject to FDA approval, would dose its first patient in Q4 2014.

The Phase II trial would compare HER-Vaxx to the standard chemotherapy combination of 5-fluororacil and Cisplatin.

“The strategy is to induce a polyclonal antibody response with similar antitumor properties as Herceptin,” Imugene stated in a presentation to investors posted on its website, noting that the breast-cancer treatment marketed by Roche and its Genentech subsidiary generated 2012 sales of $6.4 billion. “HER-2 Vaxx effectively turns the patient’s body into a Herceptin factory.”

Imugene reasons that HER-Vaxx can be more successful than Herceptin because it would not require regular infusion, allowing it to be marketed at lower cost.

Imugene said it will issue 300 million shares to purchase 100% of Biolife, then raise another A$2.5 million ($2.4 million) through a placement of 250 million shares at $0.01 to be managed by Forrest Capital. The company can issue 85 million shares within its current capacity, but will need shareholder approval to issue the rest of the planned shares.

Biolife in March had planned to be acquired by another Australian biotech, Acuvax, in a deal that included the raising of A$5 million ($4.8 million) toward Phase II clinical trials through the placement of up to 25 million shares at $0.20 each.

As part of the latest deal, Axel Hoos, M.D., Ph.D., GlaxoSmithKline’s vp of oncology R&D, is expected to join Imugene’s board as nonexecutive director.

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