GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) said today it has acquired GlycoVaxyn for $190 million, more than two years after taking a minority stake in the vaccine developer as part of a collaboration to develop new antibacterial conjugate vaccines.

GSK said it now owns all shares of GlycoVaxyn, valuing the company at $212 million. However, the companies said they will work in coming months to “maintain the autonomy and agility of GlycoVaxyn whilst delivering the scale and support that GSK can provide.”

GlycoVaxyn is in Phase I clinical trials with a vaccine candidate against E. coli infections, and is expected to launch a Phase I study for a vaccine against Shigellosis (severe diarrhea) in the U.S. in the first quarter of this year, with financial support from the Wellcome Trust.

GSK also agreed to acquire what it called “a small number” of early-stage vaccines in development against bacterial infections that include pneumonia, Pseudomonas, Staphylococcus aureus, and Shigellosis.

The developmental vaccines benefit GSK, it said, by supplementing its existing vaccines pipeline. Vaccines is one of 12 “key therapeutic areas of interest,” according to GSK’s website.

GlycoVaxyn proved attractive to GSK because of its biological conjugation platform technology. According to GlycoVaxyn, the platform makes it possible to produce immunogenic carbohydrate-protein conjugates in bacterial cells without chemical conjugation, enabling development of vaccines for a wider range of indications than possible through traditional chemical conjugation technology.

GlycoVaxyn’s platform technology is designed to work by transforming the gene cluster responsible for the biosynthesis of the bacterial lipopolysaccharide, capsule polysaccharide, or oligo polysaccharides into E. coli together with the protein carrier of interest, along with a patented enzyme that performs the bioconjugation reaction in vivo. Once produced upon induction, purification steps are performed and the biological products are formulated for use as a vaccine.

According to GlycoVaxyn, the process of recombinant bioconjugation preserves the bacterial carbohydrate's and protein's native structure and only produces specific conjugates with a known number of conjugated components. This process yields highly reproducible batches.

GSK said the platform technology could enable it to develop new prophylactic and therapeutic vaccines for a range of bacterial diseases, as well as develop a simplified conjugate vaccine manufacturing process.

“This is an exciting opportunity to expand our research efforts to develop a new generation of vaccines for common and severe bacterial infections, for many of which there are currently no effective vaccines,” Moncef Slaoui, Ph.D., GSK’s chairman of vaccines, said in a statement.

Headquartered in Schlieren, Switzerland, GlycoVaxyn was incorporated in 2004 as a spinoff from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) to commercialize the recombinant DNA glycoprotein technology developed by its scientific founder. The company said it employs “around 50” people.

GlycoVaxyn has raised approximately CHF 50 million (about $54 million) in equity funding, and has attracted investments from life science venture capital firms that include Sofinnova Partners, Index Ventures, and Edmond de Rothschild Investment Partners.

GlycoVaxyn has also received funding from the Wellcome Trust, and through a three-year R&D collaboration with Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen Pharmaceuticals.

That partnership entailed a Janssen affiliate, Crucell Holland, applying GlycoVaxyn’s bioconjugation platform to develop a multivalent bacterial vaccine. Last month, GlycoVaxyn received its first milestone payment of undisclosed amount in the collaboration with Janssen, linked to promising Phase I interim data—namely the achievement of a robust immune-response against all antigens included into the vaccine candidate at 30 days post-vaccination.

GSK took its stake in GlycoVaxyn upon the launch of their collaboration in December 2012, in return for the privately-held vaccine developer receiving an upfront payment from the pharma giant. The amounts of the equity stake and payment were undisclosed—though the companies did say at the time that Glaxo obtained an option for an exclusive license on vaccines developed through the collaboration over a three-year period.

GSK also agreed to pay GlycoVaxyn milestone payments and royalties if vaccines developed through the collaboration won regulatory approval. The companies never disclosed how much GlycoVaxyn was to have received.

The GlycoVaxyn acquisition is GSK’s latest move to grow its vaccines portfolio. The company last year agreed to acquire most of Novartis’ vaccine operations (except flu vaccines) for $7.1 billion— $5.25 billion upfront and up to $1.8 billion in payments tied to development milestones—plus 10% royalties on net sales of two Novartis-developed products, the meningitis multivalent conjugate vaccine candidate MenABCWY and the soon-to-be-launched meningitis B vaccine Bexsero.

The GlycoVaxyn acquisition “reinforces our commitment to seek out and invest in great science and complements our proposed transaction with Novartis which will strengthen our leading position in vaccines,” Dr. Slaoui added.

In October 2014, CSL agreed to buy Novartis’ flu vaccine business for $275 million. The deal is set to be completed in the second half of 2015, subject to customary closing conditions including regulatory approvals, Novartis said January 27 in releasing fourth-quarter 2014 results.

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