BioWorld International Correspondent

In a move that provided its shareholders with a little holiday cheer, Pharmexa A/S picked up a portfolio of intellectual property assets in immunotherapy from Vectron Therapeutics AG, a firm in liquidation.

Pharmexa's share price rose by 9.2 percent to a 12-month high of DKK28.50 (US$5.22) on the Copenhagen Stock Exchange Dec. 22. The transaction had little effect on Pharmexa's balance sheet, which listed DKK220.5 million in cash, cash equivalents and marketable securities as of Sept. 30 - the purchase price amounted to less than €100,000 (US$136,234), said Pharmexa CEO Jakob Schmidt.

"Immunotherapy has been a tough area in the last couple of years," he told BioWorld International. "If you follow the field, you can make good deals."

Marburg, Germany-based Vectron was founded in 2000 by a team of scientists based at the University of Marburg and was a winner in the German government's competitive BioChance funding program. H rsholm, Denmark-based Pharmexa now is the owner of technologies it has developed in two areas - novel liposomal delivery systems and recombinant antibody-like proteins known as single-chain diabodies.

"You could think of various ways you could combine this liposome delivery technology with some of the things we do," Schmidt said. In the short term, the diabody technology offers potential out-licensing opportunities, he said.

But it also is part of a wider strategy. "I definitely see the next couple of years as an opportunity for us to get into a strong position in this field," he said. Other technologies are either up for sale or soon will be, as companies involved in immunotherapy continue to suffer. "We'll be looking around to see if we can pick up some of these assets from time to time," Schmidt said.

Pharmexa is insulated from the present climate following a heavily oversubscribed rights issue earlier this year, which yielded DKK250 million.

Investors now are waiting to see whether London-based GlaxoSmithKline plc will pick up an option to negotiate a licensing deal for Pharmexa's Her-2 protein AutoVac vaccine for breast cancer. Pharmexa recently obtained regulatory clearance to initiate a Phase II trial in Hungary and Poland. GSK can pick up the option at any stage during a three-month period following the first patient dosing. But Pharmexa, Schmidt said, has sufficient resources to fund the 12-month trial itself.

"We have brought ourselves into a position where we don't have to out-license now," he said.