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PowderMed's Vaccines: Out of Chiron, Into the Clinic

Executive Summary

The spinout of PowderJect's DNA vaccine technology following that company's acquisition by Chiron in mid-2003 was no surprise-these powder-injection assets are far too early-stage in the context of Chiron's vaccines pipeline. But newly minted PowderMed is no ordinary start-up. Despite the high-risk nature of its technology, the firm begins life with £20 million from four blue chip VCs, Big Pharma endorsement provided by GSK, five projects expected to enter the clinic within two years, and management that has overseen development of these products for more than six years.

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Beyond the Egg: PowderMed Joins Avian Flu Efforts

That threat of an avian flu pandemic and the well-publicized manufacturing mishaps and shortages plaguing standard egg-based annual flu vaccine production has spurred a handful of biotechnology companies to scramble to get alternative avian flu vaccines into development. Most recently in early August PowderMed Ltd., the Chiron Corp. spin-out developing DNA vaccine technology, said it would follow up on the early clinical success of its next-generation annual flu vaccine by developing a vaccine for pandemic avian flu.

Cancer Vaccines: European Immunotherapy Strategies

European developers of therapeutic cancer vaccines are making steady, if slow progress towards clinical and regulatory success. But late-stage setbacks and delays at North American firms-which are several years more advanced and thus bearing the brunt of working out the regulatory kinks-highlight the challenges associated with bringing a cancer vaccine to market. Given the various technological and commercial approaches to immunotherapy on either side of the ocean, European firms are closely watching the progress of similar technologies in the US.

Chiron/PowderJect: US Snaps Up Europe's Best

Chiron's acquisition of PowderJect is the most recent sign that the vaccines industry is coming of age, taking the field's only two mid-sized players up among the top-ranking Big Pharma. This deal was largely about infrastructure. But it suggests any European biotech with a valuable asset--be it product or distribution network--is an attractive takeover target for US firms.

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