2 biotechs swoop into monkeypox scene with new R&D licensing pact

Lytic Solutions has circled in on NightHawk Biosciences’ monkeypox vaccine science, penning a licensing deal with the ultimate goal of developing a vaccine that will address a potential monkeypox pandemic.

Financials for the R&D deal—reported in an August 21 Securities and Exchange Commissionfiling—were not disclosed.

Under the pact, Lytic Solutions—a Madison, Wisconsin-based biotech that offers affinity reagents and molecular biology tools for researchers—will fund Nighthawk’s efforts to develop a new subunit monkeypox vaccine. Subunit vaccines use protein pieces from the target virus to trigger immunity.  

Nighthawk—a small Delaware biotech focused on immune disease treatments—currently touts a customizable vaccine platform, dubbed RapidVax, that is applicable in several indications. The biotech also has several oncology assets in its pipeline, with the most advanced candidate a phase 2 cell therapy for non-small cell lung cancer.

Under the new deal, Nighthawk will turn over any developed monkeypox virus construct sequences to Lytic. The Wisconsin biotech will then use its own platform to target the new constructs against a series of proteins to create a polyclonal vaccine.

Lytic believes the subunit vaccine approach is better than other current approaches, citing serious safety concerns associated with some jabs.

Currently, the CDC-preferred monkeypox vaccine is Jynneos, a two-dose modified vaccinia ankara (MVA) vaccine produced by Denmark’s Bavarian Nordic.    

The U.S. also has a stockpile of smallpox vaccine ACAM2000. But the older shot, originally produced by Sanofi and now by Emergent BioSolutions, carries a higher risk of side effects and isn’t recommended for immunocompromised people.