Pfizer's growth spurt continues with pickup of Switzerland's Redvax

2014 was a busy year for Pfizer's ($PFE) vaccines unit, and it looks like the pharma giant's ready to keep the ball rolling as the new year kicks off. Just over a month after closing its buyout of Baxter's ($BAX) vaccines unit, it's acquired Switzerland's Redvax for an undisclosed sum.

Pfizer SVP Kathrin Jansen

With the privately held company will come access to a preclinical human cytomegalovirus (CMV) vaccine candidate, as well as a tech platform and IP related to a second, undisclosed vaccine program, Pfizer said Monday. CMV, a herpesvirus, infects 50% to 90% of the adult population, and while most people remain asymptomatic, a vaccine could cut transmission of the virus from pregnant mothers to their unborn children.

"We are working to bring innovative vaccines to market that prevent and treat serious diseases," Kathrin Jansen, Pfizer's SVP and CSO of vaccine research and early development and one of FierceBiotech's top women in biotech for 2013, said in a statement. "Through the acquisition of the Redvax innovative CMV vaccine platform and expertise we will seek to develop a vaccine to prevent a difficult disease that can have a devastating and lifelong impact on young children."

Both programs will bolster a vaccines unit CEO Ian Read has long said could use some fleshing out, and recently the company has made moves to do just that. At this time last year, Pfizer's marketed vaccine lineup consisted solely of the best-selling Prevnar family, but thanks to the Baxter acquisition and a recent FDA nod, it now comprises shots for meningitis B, meningitis C and tick-borne encephalitis.

The Redvax prospects will beef up a pipeline that's seen some recent action, too. In August, Pfizer's Phase II Clostridium difficile vaccine nabbed the FDA's fast-track designation, giving it a lift in a race to bring the first shot for the gut disease to market.

But Pfizer will need to keep bulking up if it wants to stay competitive with its Big Pharma peers. Last year, Merck ($MRK), Sanofi ($SNY) and GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) each brought in more than $5 billion in vaccines revenue, with the New York company trailing with $3.97 billion. And now that Novartis ($NVS) has agreed to sell its vaccines business to GSK, the global vaccine market's top 3 will be even more difficult to penetrate going forward.

- read Pfizer's release

Special Reports: The top 5 vaccine makers by 2013 revenue - Pfizer | Top women in biotech 2013 - Kathrin Jansen, Pfizer