UNITED KINGDOM – GSK has announced a definitive agreement to acquire Affinivax for up to US$3.3 billion, including a US$2.1 billion upfront payment, with potential milestone payments of up to US$1.2 billion thereby expanding its vaccine portfolio

Hal Barron, GSK’s chief scientific officer, said the deal “further strengthens our vaccines R&D pipeline, provides access to a new, potentially disruptive technology, and broadens GSK’s existing scientific footprint in the Boston area.”

GSK, one of the world’s largest vaccine manufacturers, has been under pressure to strengthen its pharmaceutical pipeline ahead of the July separation of its consumer business, which includes brands such as Sensodyne toothpaste and Advil pain relievers.

The drugmaker’s newer shingles vaccine has been a key growth driver as demand for immunizations has returned following the pandemic, but GSK needs a new product to bolster the vaccines business, which made 6.78 billion pounds (US$8.54 billion) in 2021.

GSK is also up against vaccine candidates developed by rivals Pfizer and Moderna using newer mRNA technology.

The acquisition comes after GSK indicated last month that it was looking for more deals following its US$1.9 billion purchase of Sierra Oncology to bolster its cancer business.

According to GSK, Affinivax’s Multiple Antigen Presenting System (MAPS) technology “supports higher valency than conventional conjugation technologies, enabling broader coverage against prevalent pneumococcal serotypes and potentially creating higher immunogenicity than current vaccines.”

Affinivax’s newer vaccine technology is designed to strengthen the breadth of immunity against a pathogen, such that an immune-boosting adjuvant is not necessary.

Privately-held Affinivax gives GSK its next-generation vaccines under development, the most advanced of which are for pneumococcal diseases, such as pneumonia, meningitis, bloodstream infections and sinusitis.

GSK has its own, older, pneumococcal vaccine called Synflorix, which was approved for European and US use in 2009, and which competes with Pfizer’s Prevnar and Merck’s Pneumovax.

Meanwhile, China’s National Medical Products Administration (NMPA) has granted approval for GlaxoSmithKline’s (GSK) two-dose vaccine schedule, Cervarix, in girls between the age of nine to fourteen years to prevent cervical cancer.

It is also indicated to prevent cervical intraepithelial neoplasia and adenocarcinoma in situ, both of which are caused by oncogenic human papillomavirus (HPV) types 16 and 18.

Cervarix is a non-infectious, recombinant, AS04-adjuvanted HPV bivalent (types 16, 18) vaccine.

Cervarix became the first two-dose HPV vaccine imported for individuals in this age group in mainland China with the latest approval.

Cervarix’s two-dose vaccine regimen is approved in nearly 100 countries, including Asia, Africa, the European Union, and Latin America, in addition to China.

In China, the three-dose vaccine regimen is still on the label for girls and women aged 15 to 45 years.

The company stated that the vaccine demonstrated direct evidence of lowering cervical cancer incidence rates.

Data from a register-based study in England show that girls aged 12 to 13 years who received the vaccine doses had an 87 percent and 97 percent decrease in cervical cancer and precancerous lesions such as cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN) grade 3, respectively.

These findings indicate a larger effect than expected based on the presence of the HPV 16/18 strains in the vaccine.

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