Antigenics shares gain on GSK's ambitious PhIII vax program

GlaxoSmithKline isn't the only company cheering this week's launch of a late-stage program for a shingles vaccine. Antigenics flagged its own role in the parade for the potential blockbuster and was rewarded with a 20 percent spike in its share price. Antigenics supplied the adjuvant for GSK's vaccine. And as CEO Garo Armen (photo) notes in a release, the Lexington, MA-based company stands to gain a fresh revenue stream in the event the Phase III program ends on a bright note.

GSK has already underscored just how important this program is, noting that it is one of the most important programs in its pipeline. Now the pharma giant is recruiting more than 30,000 people to test the effectiveness of the vaccine and adjuvant. "A significant number of products containing QS-21 continue to advance in the clinic," explains Armen in a statement. "This adjuvant has substantial revenue potential for Antigenics with no associated developments costs to the company."

Antigenics needs all the help it can get. Its shares have dropped 63 percent over the last year as its cancer vaccine, which cost hundreds of millions of dollars to develop, ran into trouble with regulators. European regulators had already rejected the therapy when Armen noted that U.S. regulators were "too rigid" to approve it. Russia approved Oncophage two years ago.

"The commencement of the Phase III programme for our candidate herpes zoster vaccine is a significant milestone," says Norman Begg, chief medical officer of GSK Biologicals, at the beginning of the week. "Shingles is an often debilitating condition for which there are limited treatment and prevention options. That is why progression into late stage development of our herpes zoster vaccine is an important milestone in ongoing efforts to potentially help address an important unmet need."

- read the press release from Antigenics
- here's GSK's release
- check out the story from Reuters