Aviragen’s board of directors called on shareholders to approve its merger with privately owned drug delivery firm Vaxart last week, in a deal first proposed in October last year.
The merger would see Aviragen equity holders own 40% of the new publically-traded entity – to be known as Vaxart – and would have a combined value of approximately $264m (€216m), management divulged in an SEC filing.
“The combined company will be focused on developing Vaxart’s oral recombinant vaccines and Aviragen’s direct-acting antivirals to treat infections that have limited therapeutic options,” Aviragen said.
Oral recombinant vaccines
The firm added Vaxart’s tablet vaccines could be a major disruptor in the global vaccines market, estimated to be worth $30bn.
“In a head-to-head comparison with a leading injectable influenza vaccine, Vaxart’s oral tablet vaccine delivered clinical proof of efficacy and an excellent safety profile that significantly de-risks the platform.”
San Francisco, California-based Vaxart’s oral delivery platform consists of a recombinant antigen and an adenovirus vector combined with a TLR3 (toll-like receptor-3) ligand adjuvant in an enteric coated tablet. This is delivered to the epithelium of the small intestine where the vaccine activates an immune response.
Its lead candidate is an oral solid dosage form of an influenza vaccine being examined in Phase II trials that has been found to be comparable to injectables, while the firm also has an oral norovirus vaccine in the clinic.
Vaxart has been working with contract manufacturing organisations (CMOs), including Lonza, to produce recombinant viruses for use in clinical trial batches, but said last year it is looking to move production in-house.
If the merger is approved, Vaxart’s oral vaccine candidates would join Aviragen’s small molecule pipeline and its two approved products: Inavir (laninamivir octanoate) and Relenza (zanamivir), inhaled neuraminidase inhibitors for the treatment and prevention of influenza A and B, marketed by Daiichi-Sankyo and GSK, respectively.