GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) Biologicals has agreed a licensing deal to market an investigational vaccine for the treatment of nicotine addiction and the prevention of smoking relapse.

The nicotine conjugate candidate vaccine NicVAX developed by Nabi Biopharmaceuticals is designed to stimulate the immune system to produce antibodies that bind to nicotine. This prevents nicotine particles from reaching the brain where they cause the pleasurable sensation which leads to addiction.

GSK Biologicals president Jean Stephenne said that if approved, this smoking cessation vaccine technology could be a novel solution to help the millions of smokers who want to stop smoking.

Under the agreement GSK will pay to Nabi an upfront non-refundable fee of $40m and will receive an option to exclusively in-license NicVAX on a worldwide basis and also to develop follow-on next-generation nicotine vaccines using Nabi’s intellectual property.

Along with the upfront payment, Nabi will be eligible to receive over $500m in option fees and regulatory, development and sales milestones and will also receive double-digit royalties on global sales of NicVAX and any next-generation nicotine vaccines.

NicVAX recently entered the first of two Phase III clinical trials. Nabi will remain responsible for this phase of development until completion, where based on the success of the trial GSK will take responsibility for further development and commercialisation.