GSK buys vaccine developer Affinivax for $3.3 billion

An employee works on a vaccine packaging line for British pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) in Wavre, England.

An employee works on a vaccine packaging line for British pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) in Wavre, England.
photo: Kenzo Tribouillard / AFP (Getty Images)

U.K.-based pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline will buy Boston-based vaccine developer Affinivax for $2.1 billion, according to a press release from the two companies earlier Tuesday. GSK will also pay up to $1.2 billion in additional fees if Affinivax’s upcoming clinical trial of a new pneumococcal vaccine reaches certain milestones.

The transaction was first Financial Times, giving GSK a bigger U.S. footprint, at a time when it was arguably catching up in several high-profile ways.The pharma giant is already one of the world’s biggest vaccine developers, but it’s lagging behind behind others Like the covid-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer.

Affinivax’s latest potential vaccine, called AFX3772, uses a new technology platform called the Multiple Antigen Presentation System (MAPS) to help fight pneumonia, meningitis and bloodstream infections, as well as many less serious diseases.

GSK explains the technology Press release:

The Multiple Antigen Presentation System (MAPS) is a novel and efficient vaccine technology platform that enables precise, high-affinity binding of disease-associated polysaccharides to disease-associated protein antigens in a single vaccine. Immunization with the resulting polysaccharide-protein complexes induces a broad and potentially protective B-cell (antibody) response to the polysaccharide as well as separate B- and T-cell immune responses to the protein. The unique plug-and-play feature of MAPS can target a wide range of infectious diseases.

The vaccine is currently in clinical trials has been “well tolerated in participants and demonstrated good immune responses,” according to the company. And a lot of money is riding on the success of that vaccine, as $1.2 billion hangs in the balance if the vaccine receives full approval from the FDA.

“Affinivax grew out of our founders’ scientific and personal vision to drive vaccine innovation to make a meaningful impact on people’s lives, in both developed and developing countries,” Steven Brugger, CEO of Affinivax,
said in a statement Publish online.

“Over the past eight years, we have transformed this vision from the initial development of Boston Children’s Hospital’s MAPS™ vaccine platform to a pipeline of novel vaccines using our lead vaccine candidates in late-stage clinical studies,” Bruegger continued.

“We are proud that GSK has recognised our team’s achievements and believe GSK is the ideal new home for our MAPS platform and the team behind its success. Improve existing vaccines – like our main S. pneumoniae MAPS vaccine program – and develop vaccines against novel and drug-resistant infectious diseases for which there are currently no effective immunization strategies.”

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