BioWorld International Correspondent

LONDON - Acambis plc acquired the travel vaccines business Berna Products Corp. (BPC) for $8.4 million in cash, plus up to $3.75 million in sales milestones between 2004 and 2006. The move gives Acambis a revenue stream and a North American sales and marketing infrastructure through which to commercialize its range of travel vaccines in development.

The first to be launched will be Arilvax, a yellow fever vaccine. Acambis, of Cambridge, UK, intends to file a biologics license application before the end of 2003, and to launch the vaccine in the U.S. in 2004. Other products in the pipeline include vaccines against typhoid, Japanese encephalitis and dengue fever.

BPC, of Miami, was set up by Berna Biotech AG in 1990 and subsequently acquired by its president and CEO, Andres Murai, in 2001. Murai will retain his position following the sale to Acambis. In the year ended December 2002 BPC reported a pretax profit of $1 million. Although it has only 13 employees, BPC claims an established network of customers, including travel vaccination clinics, local and national governments, international companies and the U.S. Army. BPC has exclusive rights to Vivotif, an oral typhoid vaccine manufactured by Berna Biotech.

John Brown, Acambis' CEO, said the acquisition is in line with the strategy of establishing a U.S. sales and distribution infrastructure. That will allow the company to retain a higher share of the value of its products. "In addition to a profitable revenue stream from sales of Vivotif, we gain immediate access to a well-established business that has a recognized name in the travel vaccines field," he said.

Acambis also announced that it has completed production and quality control testing of all 155 million doses of smallpox vaccine for its principal contract with the U.S. government. However, about half of the doses are yet to be delivered to the U.S. stockpile because of problems with the label. Acambis said it is in discussions with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the FDA over labeling issues that relate to the fact that the smallpox vaccine has not completed clinical trials.