Fledgling French biotech touts success of new hep C vaccine

A fledgling French biotech which is reportedly being snapped up by an unidentified U.S. drug developer finds itself in the spotlight this morning. Epixis holds the rights to an experimental hepatitis C vaccine which scientists say was able to combat a variety of hepatitis C viruses in animals by spawning neutralizing antibodes--a new approach in the hep C vaccine field.

Up to now, reports Reuters Ben Hirschler, various biotechs in the field have been using a T-cell approach to guard against hepatitis C. But Epixis and the researchers testing the vaccine believe they have a superior technology.

"For a preventative vaccine, neutralizing antibodies are absolutely essential, and for a therapeutic product they would also be a big advantage," researcher David Klatzmann told Reuters.

Charlotte Dalba, the CEO of the largely unknown Epixis, says that the company hopes to launch human trials next year, provided the money is available. If they're successful, Epixis--or whichever developer is acquiring it--will be advancing a rival vaccine to programs being pushed by France's Transgene and Austria's Intercell, which has been plagued with clinical setbacks recently.

As Reuters notes, the demand for a hepatitis C vaccine would largely be in the developing world--not a market that most big drug developers find commercially appealing. But Dendreon and Merck have both produced new treatments which are expected to earn billions. Roughly 130 million to 170 million people suffer from chronic hepatitis C.

- here's the story from Reuters