Protein Sciences nabs stake in diabetes vax developer Diamyd

Diamyd Chairman Anders Essen-Möller

Diabetes vaccine developer Diamyd Medical may have been dumped by former partner Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) a few years back. But now, with its candidate in Phase II combo studies, it's seeing some new investment--including a bumped-up agreement with longtime partner Protein Sciences.

Under an agreement announced earlier this week, Protein Sciences will use its BEVS technology to manufacture Diamyd's GAD protein for upcoming late-stage Type 1 diabetes trials. In return, the Meriden, CT-based vaccinemaker, which makes the cell-culture influenza shot Flublok, will snag a cash payment and 400,000 new series B shares in Diamyd, corresponding to a 2% ownership share in the Swedish company.

"It is strategically important for the development of Diamyd that the relationship between manufacturing and commercialization is deepened, and we welcome Protein Sciences to become one of our largest shareholders," Diamyd Chairman Anders Essen-Möller said in a statement. And since Flublok already boasts FDA approval, going forward, Protein Sciences' platform won't face the same regulatory hurdles that new technologies typically have to clear, he added.

While Diamyd's candidate made it to Phase III clinical trials as a monotherapy a few years back, forthcoming studies will examine its use alongside anti-inflammatory agents. The company decided to test the vaccine as part of a combo after it missed statistical significance in a 2011 trial, spurring then-partner J&J to return a stake it had purchased a year prior.

Now that Diamyd's jab is no longer going it alone, however, the company has seen some new backing. Late last month, the EU awarded it a €120,000 grant for a study evaluating whether vitamin D and ibuprofen help the vaccine preserve the insulin-producing capacity in children newly diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.

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