UPDATED: GlaxoSmithKline bags genetic vaccine developer Okairos for $325 million

GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) has acquired upstart vaccine developer Okairos for $325 million. The deal delivers the Swiss biotech's genetic vaccine development platform, which uses viral vectors to spur a T-cell attack on a range of diseases such as hepatitis C, HIV, malaria, tuberculosis and human respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).

Riccardo Cortese, CEO of Okairos

The Swiss biotech--a 2012 Fierce 15 company--spun out of Merck ($MRK) 6 years ago under the direction of Riccardo Cortese. The team isolated adenovirus vectors from chimps that were capable of triggering a T-cell attack, and in an early study one of its vaccines eliminated hepatitis C in one out of 5 patients. Novartis Venture Funds, BioMedPartners, Boehringer Ingelheim Venture Fund, Versant Ventures and Life Sciences Partners backed the biotech.

GSK says in its release that it wants to maintain the autonomy and spirit of the company, a strategy that the pharma giant has relied on over the past four years as R&D chief Moncef Slaoui tried to foster a more biotech-like spirit in the research division.

"This is a fantastic opportunity for patients and our research organization as it is expected to contribute to the development efforts for an exciting new generation of vaccines, building on the excellent science and expertise of both companies," says GSK Vaccines President Christophe Weber.

The Okairos technology could offer immunizations against illnesses that lack vaccines. The company has a midstage effort in humans and preclinical programs to develop malaria vaccines, for example. In March, GSK reported disappointing results from a large study of RTS,S, which is the most advanced vaccine candidate for malaria in development. With the purchase of Okairos, Glaxo gains new chances to crack the malaria code. 

- here's the press release

Special Report: Okairos – 2012 Fierce 15

Editor's note: The story has been updated with information about malaria vaccines.

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