MERCK PAYING $7.5 MIL. FOR FIRST YEAR OF REPLIGEN AIDS VACCINE
MERCK PAYING $7.5 MIL. FOR FIRST YEAR OF REPLIGEN AIDS VACCINE agreement between the two firms. "Merck will receive worldwide rights to Repligen's AIDS vaccine technology, and the agreement calls for Repligen to supply Merck with the finished product," the companies announced in a joint May 27 press release. In addition, Repligen's investment in the AIDS project is protected by a royalty agreement under which Merck will pay Repligen "on any successful AIDS vaccine marketed by Merck." The agreement comes nearly two months after Repligen acquired exclusive rights to the AIDS vaccine technology from codevelopment partner Centocor, which gave up marketing rights to any AIDS vaccine in exchange for a 17% equity position in Repligen. At the time, Repligen said it would begin discussions with potential marketing partners after its mid-summer IND filing. ("The Pink Sheet" April 6, T&G-2). Repligen affirms that it still plans to file for an IND sometime this summer. Merck is the only current marketer of a human vaccine produced through recombinant techniques. That product, Recombivax HB vaccine for hepatitis B, was developed by Merck from basic work done by Chiron. With the Repligen collaboration, Merck joins at least two other major firms with AIDS vaccine projects. Bristol-Myers recently said its Oncogen unit was close to an IND filing for its rDNA AIDS vaccine, and a Ciba-Geigy/Chiron joint venture expects to begin testing an AIDS vaccine before the end of the year. "Repligen scientists, working in close collaboration with Dr. Robert Gallo's group at the NIH and Dr. Dani Bolognesi's group at Duke University have published the results of experiments providing strong evidence that a genetically engineered protein fragment of the AIDS virus surface coat, when administeresd to test animals, can induce antibodies that neutralize the AIDS virus in vitro," the May 27 release explains. "Based on these studies, Repligen and NIH researchers are now determining if immunization of chimpanzees will protect that animal against infection by a live AIDS virus." Under the agreement, Merck and Repligen will share with one another the knowhow from their AIDS vaccine research programs. After the first year, Merck will make additional payments for the achievement of specified preclinical and clinical milestones in the future. Merck will also assume the financial responsibility for the vaccine's clinical development.
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