The French vaccine maker, Pasteur Merieux Serums &Vaccins, has agreed to pay North American Vaccine Inc.up to $50 million to develop a drug to prevent meningitisB, one of several strains of the meningococcus bacteriumthat causes life-threatening inflammation of the brain andspinal cord in adults and children.

The collaboration with Pasteur Merieux, of Lyon, France,and its U.S. subsidiary, Connaught Laboratories Ltd., ofSwiftwater, Pa., represent the first major vaccinepartnership for North American Vaccine, of Beltsville,Md.

Sharon Mates, North American Vaccine president, saidfinancial details of the pact were not disclosed. Thepotential $50 million agreement includes up-frontlicensing fees, research and development expenses andmilestone payments. In addition, North AmericanVaccine also would receive royalties.

North American Vaccine's drug is made with what thecompany calls its conjugate technology, whichpermanently links a polysaccharide similar to the oneproduced by the bacterium responsible for meningitis Bto a protein that acts as a carrier. The conjugate isdesigned to stimulate the immune systems of adults aswell as infants.

Mates said preclinical studies have been completed andan investigational new drug (IND) application is beingprepared for submission to the FDA to begin clinicaltrials in adults. She did not say when the IND would befiled. Studies for infants and children are still severalyears away, she added.

Under terms of the agreement, North American Vaccineand Pasteur Merieux have co-rights to make and sell thevaccine as a single product and in combination with othervaccines. Pasteur Merieux is a subsidiary of France-basedRhone-Poulenc Group.

Mates said one goal of the collaboration is to use thevaccine in association with the combined diphtheria,tetanus and acellular pertussis vaccine (DTaP) toinoculate children. Both North American Vaccine andConnaught are developing a DTaP vaccine, but themeningitis B collaboration does not involve an agreementon that drug. The DTaP vaccine was made as analternative to the whole-cell pertussis version.

The meningitis B strain of the disease accounts for about50 percent of the 2,600 meningitis cases each year in theU.S.

Mates said North American's development of ameningitis B vaccine is protected by patents on themodified polysaccharide, the protein carrier and theconjugate technology.

North American Vaccine's stock (AMEX:NVX) closedTuesday at $11, up 25 cents. n

-- Charles Craig

(c) 1997 American Health Consultants. All rights reserved.

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