In search of new assets to bolster its leading HIV franchise, Gilead is enlisting the help of immunotherapy specialists at Hookipa Biotech to bring in some fresh R&D.
Topped with $10 million upfront and worth up to $400 million, the deal gives Gilead exclusive access to Hookipa’s arenavirus vector-based immunization technologies, Vaxwave and TheraT. As well as HIV, the Foster City, CA-based big biotech will also take a crack at hepatitis B using these viral platforms.
Vienna-based Hookipa is not known for their HBV and HIV efforts, having chosen to focus on cytomegalovirus infection for their sole clinical program and tout the potential of its TheraT platform to elicit T cells response in cancer. Back in December, it raised $60 million in Series C capital to push the CMV drug candidate into Phase II. Gilead was a strategic investor in that financing.
“This partnership is strong recognition of our unique immunization technology, and helps us concentrate our own energy and resources on immuno-oncology,” said Hookipa CEO Joern Aldag in a statement. “The collaborative HIV and HBV programs nicely complement our significant efforts in the infectious disease area with an exciting proprietary prophylactic CMV vaccine.”
A look at its pipeline suggests that Hookipa’s at discovery stage with both the HIV and HBV assets. Gilead is picking up the tab for all research and development activities, which it says will be a joint endeavor between the partners. Hookipa is in charge of manufacturing the viral vectors used in clinical development.
The early-stage collaboration builds on a long history of HIV — and viral hepatitis — drug development at Gilead, whose triplet oral therapy Biktarvy just got approved a few months ago with a $6 billion peak sales estimate.
“We are convinced that Hookipa’s unique therapeutic vaccine technology, which has demonstrated excellent safety and immunogenicity in Phase I clinical studies, has strong potential to have synergistic effect with other Gilead cure efforts in both of these diseases areas,” said Bill Lee, Gilead’s EVP of research.
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