In $171M deal, Bavarian Nordic and J&J's Janssen extend efforts to HPV

Building on a relationship struck last fall, Bavarian Nordic and Johnson & Johnson's ($JNJ) Janssen unit inked a deal on Friday potentially worth $171 million plus milestones aimed at the development of a therapeutic HPV vaccine.

Through the deal, the companies will test Bavarian Nordic's MVA-BN in a prime-boost regimen with Janssen's AdVac to target HPV-related cancers. The novel approach can induce a strong and long-lasting immune response measured by increased antibodies and T cell responses, according to a release. And, unlike approaches that seek to prevent HPV, the novel method aims to treat chronic infections and intercept HPV-related disease and cancer. Such a vaccine would fill an unmet need, according to the statement.

To start the new partnership, Janssen will provide a $9 million upfront payment to Bavarian Nordic, which will handle the required manufacturing for MVA-BN. The Danish company will be eligible for milestones of up to $171 million and single-digit tiered royalties on any potential sales, while Janssen will pay for the development costs. The J&J unit will also retain an MVA-BN licensing option on two "additional undisclosed infectious disease targets," economically independent of HPV, the release said.

The companies originally signed on last October in a deal that allowed Janssen access to MVA-BN for certain infectious diseases. They are now working on a Phase III Ebola vaccine candidate.

Merck ($MRK) and GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) offer vaccines that protect against HPV subtypes but have spent years battling a sex stigma, safety concerns and other misinformation that have dragged down sales. Merck's Gardasil brought in $1.74 billion last year, while GSK earned $176 million in Cervarix sales. Early optimistic estimates said the class could bring in anywhere between $4 billion and $10 billion.

- here's the release