Emergent boosts countermeasures repertoire with $325M deal for smallpox newcomer Tembexa

Emergent BioSolutions, already flush with products against public health threats like anthrax attacks and opioid overdoses, is expanding its arsenal of medical countermeasures by scooping up global rights to smallpox newcomer Tembexa.

Emergent will furnish developer Chimerix with $225 million in upfront cash plus upward of $100 million in milestone payments for worldwide rights to the med, also known as brincidofovir. The drug last summer snagged FDA approval as the first antiviral cleared to treat smallpox regardless of a patient's age.

The purchase is contingent on Chimerix striking a procurement pact with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS’) Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA). After the deal closes, Emergent would be on the hook to deliver the first Tembexa shipment to the country’s Strategic National Stockpile.

The Chimerix-BARDA order could come this month or next, Emergent noted. The government agency in December issued a request for proposal to get its hands on up to 1.7 million treatment courses of the drug.

Smallpox remains a serious health threat at home and abroad, HHS recently noted. Despite the disease’s eradication in the 1970s, there's concern that the variola virus could resurface, either through accidental release or as a bioweapon, Emergent pointed out.

Tembexa, which comes in both a tablet and an oral suspension format, was developed in response to the potential for smallpox to damage the throat, which makes it hard or impossible for patients to swallow tablets. The inclusion of an oral suspension formulation enabled Chimerix’s antiviral to score an FDA label across all age groups and patients who have trouble swallowing.

Aside from the $225 million in cash, Chimerix’s potential milestone payouts hinge on government contract supply options, Emergent said. Both the closing and milestone sums could be tweaked depending on how much the government buys.

Chimerix is in line to receive sales-based royalties on potential global orders during Tembexa’s exclusivity period. It's also set to receive a portion of regulatory milestone payments tied to SymBio Pharmaceuticals’ license for the drug in indications “other than orthopox infection.”

Emergent is looking to reverse its fortunes after a highly public COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing imbroglio in 2021, which may run deeper than first thought, according to a recent report from the House of Representatives' Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis.