Immune Design has struck its first big deal with a Big Pharma company.
The Seattle-based vaccine developer has agreed to provide a license to an immune-boosting compound, called an adjuvant, to the MedImmune unit of London-based AstraZeneca. The pharma giant plans to use the compound as a key ingredient in potent new vaccines it has in the works. In return, Immune Design will get undisclosed upfront cash, future milestone payments worth up to $212 million based on development and sales goals, plus “mid-single digit” percentage royalties if the vaccines become marketed products, according to Bruce Carter, Immune Design’s executive chairman.
Today’s deal is the latest step forward for Immune Design, a company founded two years ago by a trio of scientific heavyweights—Nobel laureate David Baltimore of Caltech, Larry Corey of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, and Steve Reed of the Infectious Disease Research Institute (IDRI) in Seattle. Immune Design raised $32 million its second round of venture capital in July, bringing its total fundraising haul to $50 million.
Back in July, Reed said in an Xconomy exclusive he was following the playbook of his old company, Corixa, which sought to build a foundation in the first couple years and start doing deals by year three. It’s an important point in the evolution for a biotech startup with a lot of proprietary technology that few people have really seen yet up close.
“The money is important, but what’s more important is that someone very interested in developing new vaccines recognizes the necessity of putting our adjuvant in their vaccine,” Carter says.
MedImmune is paying to get ahold of Immune Design’s synthetic chemical adjuvant, called glucopyranosyl lipid A (GLA). This compound is supposed to boost the effectiveness of vaccines in a cheaper, more reproducible, and more scalable fashion than previous generations of adjuvants that were derived from natural products. Reed and his teams at Corixa and IDRI did pioneering work on a natural product adjuvant, known as Monophosphoryl Lipid A (MPL), which is now a critical component of GlaxoSmithKline’s vaccine for cervical cancer, called Cervarix.
While this deal for Immune Design isn’t huge by biotech standards, it is intentionally limited in scope, Carter says. MedImmune has obtained the rights to use the GLA adjuvant to enhance experimental vaccines for respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), Epstein-Barr virus, and cytomegalovirus (CMV) infections.
MedImmune, of course, is well-known for its expertise in respiratory syncytial virus, since its fortune was built on the success of palivizumab (Synagis), which generated $1.23 billion in sales in 2009. Instead of just treating RSV, MedImmune now has its sights set on developing a potent new vaccine … Next Page »