Okairos: Okay After All

GlaxoSmithKline Buys Private Swiss Vaccine Company for $325 Million

Will This Be a Key Boost for the Flagging Giant?

We mentioned Okairos, a private Swiss-based company, as part of our take on the “Fierce Biotech 15” back in November of 2012.  OneMedPlace at the time noted Okairos as a company that would create “serious buzz” in the next 12-18 months.

The company specializes in the development of a novel genetic-material based vaccine platform expected to play important roles that would address the need for early stage assets in various disease markets such as respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), hepatitis C virus (HCV), malaria, tuberculosis, Ebola and HIV.  Okairos’ pipeline in numerous novel and underserved indications represents opportunities in multi-billion dollar markets.

On May 29th, 2013, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) announced the acquisition of Okairos in an all-cash deal worth €250 million (approximately £215 million/$325 million).

The Okairos acquisition helps complement Glaxo’s existing vaccine technology and expertise and will enable GSK to continue its work developing the next generation of vaccines. The deal also includes a small number of early stage assets.

Okairos’s technology has already been tested on around 700 people in clinical studies, and the company is also developing two experimental vaccine for hepatitis C and malaria in phase two clinical trials, according to the two companies.

Riccardo Cortese, Chief Executive Officer and founder of Okairos commented, “I am extremely pleased with this agreement, which will enable GSK to build on the hard work we have put into developing our vaccines and platforms to the stage that they are at today.  With its considerable resources and know-how, I am confident that GSK is best-placed to maximize this opportunity to potentially transform the vaccines landscape.”

Still, it should be known Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMY) squandered a fortune on a similar bet, buying Inhibitex for $2.5 billion and then needing to write off most of the purchase.  This came after the experimental therapy Inhibitex developed, (BMS-986094) – which is based on a new class of hepatitis C drugs known as nucleotide polymerase inhibitors – caused a death of one patient and the hospitalization of nine other patients during a mid-stage trial.

However, the Inhibitex failure has not scared away Big Pharma from Hep. C, evidenced by the 2011 Gilead Sciences (GILD) purchase of Pharmasset for $10.8 billion. Now, Okairos is the next potential blockbuster in the space.

The acquisition marks two additional contributions to GlaxoSmithKline: for one, Okairos can be an important revenue addition to the company’s current $5.4 billion in vaccine revenue, which represents about 13 percent of the company’s total; additionally, since vaccines have such high R&D costs, it is less likely to be undercut by generic competitors, something that will give larger pharmaceutical companies more staying power in their revenue lines.

Okairos will maintain semi-autonomous for a period of time before it is fully integrated into the GlaxoSmithKline family. No doubt, the company has come a long way since being spun off from Merck (MRK) in 2007.

Add Your Comments