GSK plc announced that it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Affinivax, Inc. (Affinivax), a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company based in Cambridge, Boston, Massachusetts, for a $2.1 billion upfront payment and up to $1.2 billion in potential development milestones. Affinivax is pioneering the development of a novel class of vaccines, the most advanced of which are next-generation pneumococcal vaccines.
Pneumococcal disease includes pneumonia, meningitis, bloodstream infections, and milder diseases such as sinusitis and otitis media and remains a significant unmet medical need despite the availability of current pneumococcal vaccines. There are many different pneumococcal serotypes. The number of serotypes in current vaccines is limited due to the degree of immunological interference observed when using existing conjugation technologies.
Affinivax has developed the Multiple Antigen Presenting System (MAPS), a novel technology that supports higher valency than conventional conjugation technologies, enabling broader coverage against prevalent pneumococcal serotypes and potentially creating higher immunogenicity than current vaccines. Affinivax’s most advanced vaccine candidate (AFX3772) includes 24 pneumococcal polysaccharides plus two conserved pneumococcal proteins (compared to up to 20 serotypes in currently approved vaccines). A 30-plus valent pneumococcal candidate vaccine is also in pre-clinical development.
Dr Hal Barron, Chief Scientific Officer and President R&D, GSK, said: “The proposed acquisition 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. We look forward to working with the many talented people at Affinivax to combine our industry-leading development, manufacturing, and commercialisation capabilities to make this exciting new technology available to those in need.”
In the adult phase I/II clinical trials, AFX3772 was well tolerated in participants and demonstrated good immune responses compared to the current standard of care. In July 2021, the US Food and Drug Administration granted Breakthrough Therapy designation for AFX3772 to prevent S. pneumoniae invasive disease and pneumonia in adults 50 years and above. Phase III is expected to start in the short term. Phase I/II clinical trials to assess the use of the vaccine in paediatrics are planned to begin later this year.
Steven Brugger, CEO of Affinivax, Inc., said:
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. Over the past eight years, we have taken that vision from the initial development of our MAPS™ vaccine platform at Boston Children’s Hospital to a pipeline of novel vaccines with our lead vaccine candidate in late-stage clinical studies. We are proud that GSK has recognized our team’s accomplishments and are confident that GSK is an ideal new home for our MAPS platform and the team behind its success. GSK’s significant capabilities 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.