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Pfizer buys British vaccine company PowderMed

Published on 12/10/06 at 09:36am

Pfizer will gain entry into the fast-growing vaccines market by buying PowderMed, the British company developing next generation products in the field.

PowderMed's vaccine pipeline is based on its Particle Mediated Epidermal Delivery (PMED) technology, a needle-free delivery system that delivers DNA-coated microscopic gold particles into the skin using pressurised helium gas. The particles penetrate the skin, activating cells that, in turn, trigger an immune response.

Vaccines based on the PMED technology have been shown to produce antibody and cell mediated immune responses, and the system could prove to be far more effective than traditional vaccines.

Pfizer is the world's biggest pharma company, and its portfolio spans most of the major therapy areas in medicine, but vaccines have been a notable exception until now.

A new generation of vaccine products which promise to revolutionise treatment and earn their manufacturers billions has raised the profile of vaccines in recent months, including cervical cancer vaccines from Merck and GSK and demand for new influenza and avian flu vaccines.

GlaxoSmithKline recently predicted that global sales of vaccines would triple its present value to reach $33 billion by 2015.

Pfizer says PowderMed's unique DNA vaccine technology is particularly promising, and says its pipeline of vaccine candidates for influenza and chronic viral diseases could have major potential.

Pfizer has not released details of how much it paid for PowderMed, but the privately held company will be worth hundreds of millions of pounds.

"This acquisition is a strategic opportunity to enter the vaccine market and is part of our focus on broadening healthcare solutions for patients," said Jeffrey Kindler, chief executive, Pfizer.

"There is a critical public health need for new, more effective vaccines to prevent and treat infectious diseases. As understanding of the human immune system continues to grow exponentially, PowderMed is on the leading edge of advances in vaccine technology that may lead to new vaccines for infectious diseases."

"This acquisition is an example of the fresh approach Pfizer is taking to business development," said David Shedlarz, vice chairman of Pfizer. "With PowderMed's novel DNA technology and its portfolio of early-stage vaccine candidates, we are adding high-potential, externally sourced product candidates and technologies to our research and development portfolio."

PowderMed and its technology has its roots in PowderJect, another Oxford-based vaccines company. PowderJect was bought by a larger vaccines firm Chiron in 2004, but its DNA-based vaccine technology was sold off to a group led by PowderJects former head of R&D Clive Dix and head of product development John Beadle.

Dix, a former director of research at GlaxoSmithKline, became chief executive of the new company and attracted 30 million euros in venture capital funding, also establishing a development deal with GSK on a number of vaccine products.

"I am delighted that the potential of the PowderMed technology to revolutionise the prevention and treatment of infectious diseases is now in the hands of the world'sleading pharmaceutical company," said Clive Dix. "This agreement is a testament to the hard work and commitment of the PowderMed employees over the years."

PowderMed recently gained clearance for phase I trials in the US of a vaccine which the company hopes will treat seasonal as well as pandemic influenza.

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