GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) Biologics and Nabi Pharmaceuticals announced this week that the companies are partnering to develop an investigational vaccine for treating nicotine addition and preventing smoking relapse. The announcement is an interesting example of a novel application for a vaccine.
Under the terms of the agreement, GSK will pay Nabi an upfront fee of $40 million at the closing of the deal and will receive an option to exclusively in-license the investigational vaccine, NicVAX, on a worldwide basis and a license to develop follow-on next-generation nicotine vaccines using Nabi’s intellectual property, according to a Nabi press release. Together with the upfront payment, Nabi is eligible to receive over $500 million in option fees and regulatory, development, and sales milestones for NicVAX and follow-on nicotine vaccines. Nabi will also receive double-digit royalties on global sales of NicVAX should GSK exercise its option as well as royalties on global sales of next-generation nicotine vaccines. The deal is expected to be completed in the first quarter 2010.
NicVAX recently entered the first of two Phase III clinical trials. The vaccine is designed to stimulate the immune system to produce antibodies that bind to nicotine. A nicotine molecule attached to an antibody is too large to cross the blood-brain barrier. Therefore, NicVAX blocks nicotine from reaching its receptors in the brain and prevents the addictive pleasure sensation experienced by smokers and users of nicotine products.
“If approved, this smoking cessation vaccine technology could be a novel solution to help the millions of smokers who want to stop smoking and remain abstinent; a habit that is well documented to be very hard to stop permanently,” said Jean Stephenne, president of GSK Biologicals, in a prepared statement
The use of vaccines to treat infectious diseases is well chronicled. A vaccine to treat nicotone addition and as a smoking cessation product shows the potential versatility of vaccines in applying them in novel applications beyond their use in preventing infectious diseases.