Japanese pharmaceutical firm Astellas Pharma has entered into a strategic partnership with ClearPath Development Company to form a portfolio of development companies focused on producing vaccines for infectious diseases.

The deal is aimed at supporting Astellas’s goal of building a global vaccine franchise and launched its first company, RSV Corporation (RSVC), in December 2013.

Astellas will fund RSVC’s development of a virosome vaccine technology, licensed from Mymetics, for respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) through completion of a Phase IIb human proof-of-concept study.

Based on the deal, Astellas secured exclusive rights to acquire RSVC and also to further develop and commercialise the vaccine product.

Astellas senior vice-president and chief strategy officer Kenji Yasukawa said: "This partnership highlights our commitment to build a global vaccine business and represents a highly efficient model for bringing innovative vaccines to market.

"It is also a unique opportunity for Astellas to utilise external cutting edge science and technology to enhance our ability to generate innovative drugs, as part of the ‘Reshaping Research Framework’ programme announced in May, 2013."

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Under the deal, Mymetics will collaborate with RSVC on the development of the vaccine, with Mymetics CSO Toon Stegmann remaining engaged on pre-clinical activities including nonclinical evaluation, formulation development and manufacturing.

"We anticipate RSV will be the first of many vaccine constructs that can be generated from our proprietary second-generation virosome platform."

RSVC’s development team is led by George Siber, a recognised vaccine expert with more than 35 years’ experience.

ClearPath chairman Chuck Finn said: "Together we are harnessing our collective resources to accelerate development of this promising, early stage asset and will replicate this scalable, outcome driven model across future portfolio companies."

Mymetics CEO Ronald Kempers added: "We anticipate RSV will be the first of many vaccine constructs that can be generated from our proprietary second-generation virosome platform."

The deal will see Mymetics secure an upfront and post proof-of-concept milestone payments up to $82m, as well as double digits royalties and other payments, for its technology for RSV.

RSV is a respiratory pathogen that infects patients of all ages and can be severe in infants and older adults with chronic pulmonary or cardiovascular disease.

Image: electron micrograph depicts the Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) pathogen. Photo: courtesy of Kauczuk.