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GSK Acquires Advanced Vaccine Biotech in $3.3B Deal

Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria

Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria (Scientific Animations, Wikimedia Commons)

31 May 2022. Drug maker GSK is buying a biotechnology company developing vaccines for respiratory and infectious diseases that generate multiple immune responses. The deal with GSK plc, in London and known until recently as GlaxoSmithKline, could bring Affinivax Inc. in Cambridge, Massachusetts as much as $3.3 billion if all terms of the agreement are fulfilled.

Affinivax designs vaccines that the company says create a series of immune responses, which in turn offer stronger and broader protection against disease-causing pathogens. Its technology, known as multiple antigen presenting system or MAPS, generates responses from B- and T-cells in the immune system. Affinivax says MAPS produces a protein called rhizavidin that binds polysaccharides to antigen proteins, with a mechanism the company says is simpler and more durable than conventional vaccines.

The company’s pipeline contains several vaccines for infectious diseases, with its lead product, code-named AFX3772 designed to protect against Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria. Streptococcus pneumoniae are responsible for a number of serious respiratory infections, including pneumonia, meningitis, and sepsis. Affinivax says AFX3772 is shown to generate antibodies against 24 polysaccharide targets, as well as underlying pneumococcal proteins. The company says in early and mid-stage clinical trials, AFX3772 is well tolerated and produces strong immune responses at all three dosage levels tested.

Broaden’s scientific footprint in Boston

In Dec. 2021, Science & Enterprise reported on a vaccine in development by Affinivax designed to protect against a broad range of Covid-19 variants, funded by Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations or CEPI, an early funder of Covid-19 vaccines. Another Science & Enterprise report, in Mar. 2021, tells about a vaccine to prevent increasingly resistant Staphylococcus aureus infections found in health care facilities, funded by Carb-X, short for Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria Biopharmaceutical Accelerator, an international initiative to fight antibiotic resistance.

GSK is a developer of vaccines for numerous infectious diseases including HIV, Covid-19, other respiratory diseases, and cancer. Under the agreement, GSK acquires all outstanding shares in privately-owned Affinivax for $2.1 billion. In addition, Affinivax shareholders are eligible for another $1.2 million in two payments of $600 million each, for Affinivax achieving milestones related to pediatric clinical development, but otherwise undisclosed.

“The proposed acquisition further strengthens our vaccines R&D pipeline,” says Hal Barron GSK’s chief scientist and president of R&D in a company statement, “provides access to a new, potentially disruptive technology, and broadens GSK’s existing scientific footprint in the Boston area.”

“GSK’s significant capabilities,” adds Affinivax CEO Steven Brugger, “will enable continued advances with MAPS to improve existing vaccines, as is the case with our lead Streptococcus pneumoniae MAPS vaccine program, and develop vaccines that combat novel and resistant infectious diseases for which there are no effective immunization strategies available today.”

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