Novartis licenses vaccine candidates from U.S. group

ZURICH Mon Dec 29, 2008 1:16am EST

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ZURICH (Reuters) - Novartis AG will license a program of vaccines from U.S. group AlphaVax against cytomegalovirus (CMV) infections, which can cause disability in newborn babies, the Swiss drugmaker said on Monday.

The deal includes vaccines to prevent Helicobacter pylori infections, a major cause of gastritis that can lead to gastric cancer, and another potential immunization against neonatal sepsis and meningitis.

Novartis will pay AlphaVax $20 million upfront for the investigational CMV program and also has rights of first negotiation on a preclinical respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) program.

There are no approved vaccines to prevent CMV infections and the lead vaccine candidate in the deal is expected to enter mid-stage clinical trials in 2009.

The Swiss company also has an option to make an equity investment at the end of mid-stage trials for 4 million shares. AlphaVax will be eligible for milestones and royalties.

CMV infects about 86,000 newborns in the U.S. and European Union each year, causing 700 deaths and 17,500 cases of severe disability, Novartis said.

(Reporting by Sam Cage)

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