LONDON ¿ PowderJect Pharmaceuticals plc has extended its DNA vaccines deal with Glaxo Wellcome plc, of London, for the second time, triggering a milestone payment of US$3.4 million. Glaxo has purchased two further licenses, one for HIV and the second for an undisclosed infectious disease. In addition, it renewed all its rights under the agreement, originally signed in March 1998, to develop and commercialize up to 11 powdered DNA vaccines, to be delivered by PowderJect¿s needleless injection system.
Paul Drayson, CEO of PowderJect, told BioWorld International the extension ¿is a sign of the solid progress we are making in the collaboration. It reflects the very strong clinical data we have achieved in the clinic with our hepatitis B product, where we have shown both antibody and cellular responses. There is a clear improvement in terms of the effect on the immune system. There is always a lot of attention when a deal is signed, but that is only the start of the collaboration, so we are very pleased that Glaxo has twice decided to extend the agreement.¿
The overall potential value of the deal has not been revealed.
PowderJect¿s delivery system uses DNA adhered to microscopic gold particles as a dry powder, which is propelled through the skin, without piercing it, by a burst of helium gas. Drayson said the DNA vaccine program has reached the stage where the company is ready to take on further partners.
PowderJect, based in Oxford, also announced an agreement with Medeva plc, of London, to conduct a feasibility study into applying its technology to a conventional subunit vaccine Hepagene, for hepatitis C, which is currently under registration in a traditional formulation.
PowderJect made the disclosures as it released financial results for the year ended March 31, 1999, showing losses more than doubled at #9.4 million (US$15 million), compared to #4.5 million the previous year. This was on revenues of #5.8 million, up from #3.1 million in 1998. Research and development investment also doubled, to #13.2 million from #7.3 million. Following a placement in March 1999, which raised #52 million, the company had #84 million cash.
¿Financially, we are within budget and are pleased with the results,¿ Drayson said. ¿We set a cash consumption target when we floated, and we have lived within that, even though we have undertaken more than we planned.¿
Also last week, PowderJect announced the placing of 4.5 million shares at #8 each, on behalf of CWB Capital Partners, the original private equity investor, which put #3.5 million into the company, and of a further 4.9 million shares on behalf of directors and senior staff.
¿CWB has been a very partner and we are happy for them to place stock in this way,¿ Drayson said. ¿It gives us the chance to get further institutional backing.¿