UPDATED: Takeda beefs up new vaccines arm with $250M bolt-on buyout of Inviragen

Inviragen CEO Dan Stinchcomb

A couple of months after moving its experimental dengue vaccine into the second phase of a mid-stage study, Fort Collins, CO-based Inviragen has been snapped up by Takeda Pharmaceuticals in a $250 million deal. Takeda--which has been working on these kinds of bolt-on acquisitions for more than a year--put up $35 million in cash to close on the deal. The rest of the money is promised in milestones for the successful development of Inviragen's vaccines, which includes a project for hand, foot and mouth disease.

Takeda often absorbs companies and employees in buyouts like these, and Inviragen isn't likely to be much different. CEO Dan Stinchcomb says that Takeda is revewing the international operations of Inviragen--with a team of 51 in Colorado, Madison, WI and Singapore--as it determines how to accelerate the R&D work.

"Our strategy seems to be well received, with a lot of interst in vaccines, infectious diseases and emerging markets," Stinchcomb tells FierceBiotech. Inviragen merged with SingVax back in 2009, when it raised a Series A of $15 million. Since that point the backers have contributed some more money while grants and contracts provided more than $30 million to the company.

DENVax, the lead program, is a four-strain viral vaccine aimed at preventing dengue infections. Two doses of the vaccine provided over 90 days are being tested in the mid-stage study. The hand, foot and mouth disease project completed a Phase I study and the biotech has a preclinical program for chikungunya--another mosquito borne virus that causes CHIKV infection, with symptoms similar to dengue.

Takeda is touting the acquisition along with its buyout of LigoCyte last fall as an example of the company's commitment to vaccine development. Takeda launched its vaccines arm at the beginning of 2012 and paid $60 million down and promised an unspecified slate of milestone to acquire LigoCyte, based in Bozeman, MT, LifoCyte has been working on its virus-like particle technology, which Stinchcomb notes is highly synergistic with Inviragen's work.

"Takeda has taken another major step toward its goal of establishing a world-class global vaccine business by acquiring Inviragen and its advanced vaccine candidate against dengue, a serious mosquito-borne illness that threatens nearly half of the world's population," said Dr. Rajeev Venkayya, executive vice president and head of Takeda's vaccine business. "Today's announcement reinforces Takeda's commitment to develop innovative vaccines to fight some of the world's most important infectious diseases."

Inviragen partnered with the International Vaccine Institute on DENVax about two years ago.

- here's the press release