USA – Johnson & Johnson has announced the termination of its collaboration and license agreements with Bavarian Nordic to develop potential vaccines against hepatitis B and human papillomaviruses (HPV).

However, the two companies stated that they would continue to collaborate on HIV and Ebola programs.

In 2015, Johnson & Johnson agreed to pay up to US$171 million for exclusive rights to Bavarian Nordic’s MVA-BN technology in order to develop a prime-boost vaccine regimen targeting all HPV-induced cancers using its own AdVac technology.

In a deal worth up to US$879 million, the two companies expanded their collaboration about two years later to develop vaccine regimens against hepatitis B and HIV.

Johnson & Johnson also announced that it has not begun any clinical studies in hepatitis B using the MVA-BN platform.

The company’s Janssen Pharmaceutical unit, on the other hand, stated that it would “continue to prioritize investigation of its hepatitis B combination therapies using alternative investigational vaccine platforms and therapeutics within its portfolio,” with several studies currently underway.

It also stated that vaccines against HPV have seen “widespread uptake of effective, preventive vaccines” against the virus – namely Merck & Co/MSD’s Gardasil and Gardasil 9 and GlaxoSmithKline’s Cervarix.”

As a result of this, as well as the “prioritization of other programs,” Janssen “will not be focusing R&D efforts on a therapeutic vaccine against human papillomaviruses at this time.”

Meanwhile, the Ebola collaboration began in 2014, when Johnson & Johnson obtained an exclusive license to Bavarian Nordic’s MVA-BN-based Filovirus vaccine, which is designed to protect against the Ebola virus strains from Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan, as well as the Marburg virus.

That transaction was worth more than US$187 million. The EBOVAC-Salone study’s Phase III results showed that Johnson & Johnson’s Ebola vaccine regimen provided a “robust” immune response in adults and children, with antibody responses lasting at least two years in adults.

The Ebola vaccine regime includes combination of Zabdeno (Ad26.ZEBOV) and Mvabea (MVA-BN-Filo).

The HBV category is also highly competitive, with well-established shots like GSK’s Engerix-B and Merck’s Recombivax HB now being challenged by other candidates emerging from the industry pipeline, including Dynavax’s Heplisav-B and VBI Vaccines recently-approved PreHevBrio.

While HBV is on the rise and the World Health Organization is aiming to eradicate the disease by 2030, Janssen and Bavarian Nordic’s HBV program is still in the preclinical stage – likely too far back to contribute to that effort.

Bavarian Nordic’s pipeline is led by its universal COVID-19 booster candidate, which will enter phase 3 later this year, and a respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) candidate, which is expected to generate phase 3 results in 2023.

Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline, and Moderna are the other pharmaceutical companies that are currently in late-stage testing with a vaccine for respiratory syncytial virus, which causes a common infection that hospitalizes tens of thousands of young children and older adults each year.

The Danish pharmaceutical company sells vaccines for rabies, smallpox, and tick-borne encephalitis.

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