AstraZeneca acquires US vaccine company for $1.1bn

AstraZeneca has acquired its first vaccine company for $1.1bn. This will allow the company to expand its vaccine and immunotherapy business, which it established during the Covid pandemic.

The largest drugmaker in Britain has agreed to buy Seattle-based Icosavax. Icosavax is working on a vaccine that could treat two common respiratory illnesses.

The US company’s leading product targets two diseases, respiratory syncytial viruses (RSV) as well as human metapneumoviruses (hMPV), that can cause serious illness and hospitalization for adults aged over 60 or those with chronic illnesses such kidney, cardiovascular and respiratory disease. RSV and human metapneumovirus (hMPV) can be dangerous for young children.

One month after vaccination, phase II studies (intermediate studies) showed that the vaccine produced robust immune responses to RSV and hMPV. The vaccine is moving into phase III late-stage trials, which will include between 20,000 to 30,000 volunteers.

This is a VLP combination vaccine (virus-like particle) that is administered as a single injection in the arm.

AstraZeneca says that VLP vaccines have advantages over other vaccines because they look like viruses to the immune system in the body.These include a stronger immunity response, greater protection, longer durability requiring fewer boosts and fewer side effects compared with GSK’s current RSV vaccine.

This year, both Pfizer and GSK in the UK launched RSV vaccines. GSK’s Arexvy shot, approved in the US and UK in May, is expected bring in over £1bn of revenues in its first full year.

Moderna, a Massachusetts-based company, is waiting for regulatory approval for its RSV vaccination in the US and EU. The vaccine is based upon the same mRNA technology as its Covid injection. The company is testing a combination, and aims to have a triple flu vaccine ready by 2026.

Iskra Reic is the executive vice president of AstraZeneca’s vaccines and immune therapies division. She stated: “This virus-like particles vaccine technology has potential to transform the prevention against severe infectious disease, including RSV, hMPV, and other respiratory viruses.” She added that it could be used for the development of other combination vaccines.

She added, “This is in line with our strategy of delivering a portfolio to address unmet needs for infectious diseases and our ambition to provide protection to the most vulnerable patients at high risk of serious outcomes.”

AstraZeneca stated that the deal was based on their RSV expertise. Sanofi, a French company, has developed and sold an antibody treatment to protect infants against the respiratory disease. The Beyfortus shot has been approved by the UK, EU, and US.