By Lisa Seachrist
WASHINGTON — Antex Biologics Inc. said SmithKline Beecham plc has opted to fund the third year of a five-year human vaccine research and development venture that, in total, could net the Gaithersburg, Md., company more than $30 million.
Under the collaboration the two companies entered into in May 1996, SmithKline agreed to fund research into human vaccines for a variety of infectious agents at Antex for two years. After that, London-based SmithKline could opt out of the venture, called MicroCarb Human Vaccines. Antex changed its name from MicroCarb Inc. in September 1996.
"Based on our progress, SmithKline has committed to funding the venture for a third year," said Theresa Stevens, vice president of corporate development for Antex. "While we don't yet know the exact amount, they will fund all of the research and development costs as well as out-of-pocket costs for clinical trials and regulatory filings. We expect the funding for next year to be in excess of $2 million."
During the first two years of the venture, SmithKline provided Antex with $2.4 million and $2.6 million, respectively. Should products come to market, Antex could receive $30 million plus royalties.
Antex successfully completed Phase I studies of its Campylobacter vaccine to prevent traveler's diarrhea, showing that the vaccine is safe and elicits an immune response. The company has completed the clinical portion of Phase II studies of the vaccine and hopes to release the results of that trial by the end of the first quarter of 1998.
In addition to the Campylobacter vaccine, the SmithKline venture is funding all of Antex's research into human vaccines, which includes vaccines for chlamydia, the ulcer-causing Helicobacter pylori and diarrhea-causing Shigella and meningitis. Currently, the H. pylori vaccine is in Phase I studies.
Antex has licensed the rights to its Haemophilus influenzae vaccine for otitis media — childhood ear infections — to Pasteur Merieux Connaught, of Lyon, France, which currently is conducting Phase I studies of the vaccine. Antex is receiving milestone payments and will earn royalties should a vaccine reach the market.
At the end of the third quarter of 1997, Antex had $6 million in cash. The company reported a net loss of $120,872 for the quarter and a net loss of $343,813 for the first nine months of this year.
"We are in an enviable financial position," Stevens said. "We have a very low burn rate and no long-term debts."
Antex's stock (NASDAQ:ANTX) closed Wednesday at $1.343, unchanged. *