Japanese pharmaceutical giant Takeda announced Tuesday it has reached a definitive agreement to purchase Inviragen for $35 million upfront, and potentially another $215 million if the company hits future commercial goals. Takeda is building out its vaccine pipeline, and hopes to take the Fort Collins company’s vaccines from Northern Colorado to the tropics.
Inviragen specializes in developing vaccines for illnesses predominantly found in the developing world, co-founder and CEO Dan Stinchcomb says. The Dengue fever vaccine it is developing is in mid-stage trials, and it is working on a vaccine for hand, foot, and mouth disease that is in an early-stage clinical trial. It also is researching vaccines for the chikungunya virus.
Inviragen has put together about $30 million in grant support since it started operations in 2005. The company eventually merged with Singapore-based SingVax in 2009, and raised a $15 million Series A venture financing at that time from Charter Life Sciences, Venture Investors, Bio*One Capital and Phillip Private Equity. Inviragen now has 51 employees working out of Fort Collins, Madison, WI, and Singapore, Stinchcomb says.
Over the past year, the company reached a point when it had to think about additional costly clinical trials on multiple continents and, eventually, commercialization, Stinchcomb says.
“We’ve been quite successful at transitioning vaccines from the lab to the clinic. [Last fall] we were looking forward to the next year, when we might be able to start larger scale efficacy trials,” he says. “That required significantly more resources than we had.”
Inviragen began looking for partners or buyers, and Takeda was interested. Inviragen will become part of Takeda’s U.S.-based vaccine business division, which is based in Deerfield, IL. Takeda formed the division in early 2012, and in October it acquired Bozeman, MT-based LigoCyte Pharmaceuticals.
The companies have formed an integration team, and details such as what role Inviragen’s leadership will have and where they will work remain to be determined, Stinchcomb says. The deal is expected to close within a few weeks.
The Dengue fever vaccine, DENVax, looks to be Inviragen’s most promising product. About 3.6 billion people live in areas where Dengue is endemic, with 400 million being infected each year. About 500,000 people are hospitalized by it, and about 20,000 are killed. The World Health Organization has made developing a vaccine for the mosquito-borne viral illness a priority.
Inviragen has received research grants from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the Dengue Vaccine Institute, which is supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.