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Amgen(AMGN) To Buy Biovex For Cancer Vaccine Technology

Biologics for Treatment of Cancer and Prevention of Infectious Disease

Amgen(NASDAQ:AMGN) and  Biovex said today that both Boards approved the sale of privately held Biovex for $425M with milestone payments as much as $525M. The Biovex lead product OncoVex, an oncolytic vaccine, is in a Phase III multinational study for metastatic melanoma. A second study was commenced in December 2010 for head and neck cancer. The Phase II study for melanoma achieved success with and overall response rate of 28% with complete remission at 20% as a stand alone therapy. The OncoVex oncolytic virus replicates in tumor cells destroying them while leaving healthy cells unharmed.A second technology platform for prevention of infectious disease ,Immunovex is in a Phase I study for HSV2 genital herpes.

Biovex is located in Woburn,MA and raised $70M in November 2009 co-led by venture  investors Morningside Venture,Ventech and MVM Life Science. The Founder of the Company in 1999 is Dr. Robert Coffin from University College in London and he is currently the Chief Technology Officer.

Immunotherapy for Cancer has been a holy grail for biotechnology R&D for more than 20 years. Recently Dendreon(NASDAQ:DNDN) achieved clinical and commercial success with the product launch of Provenge, an active cellular immunotherapy for treatment of prostate cancer and potentially other cancers. Dendreon raised over $1B since 2001 including $540M recently. Many other  companies focused on cancer vaccines have fallen by the wayside such as Cellgene, CancerVax and Favrille. Several others are still in active development and merit a more in-depth review at a later date. Among them are:

  • Celldex(CLDX $3.65) has an antibody- based combination therapy for treatment of cancer and has a Phase II trial for glioblastoma(GBM) as well as breast, bladder and renal cancers.
  • Geron(GERN $4.77) has a telomerase cancer vaccine (GRNVAC1&2)that is an autologous product consisiting of dendritic cells pulksed with RNA from the protein component of telomerase; in Phase II trails for prostate and AML.
  • Merck KGaA of Germany has initiated trials for StimuVax, a BLP25 liposomal based immunotherapy that targets the Muc-1 antigen present in may breast cancers and a Phase III study in non small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).
  • NorthWest Biotherapeutics (NASDAQ:NWBO) resumed a brain cancer Phase II clinical trials and has an ongoing  Phase III study for prostate cancer utilizing a dendritic cell platform technology.

GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE:GSK) also has an extensive R&D and clinical program for immunotherapies and adjuvants.