GlaxoSmithKline has signed a deal worth up to $46 million to acquire Nabi Biopharmaceuticals’ investigational Staphylococcus aureus vaccine and related assets.

Under the terms of the deal, which expects to close before the end of the year, Nabi will receive an initial cash payment of $20 million in return for the sale of PentaStaph. It could get an additional $26 million “contingent upon four milestone accomplishments” which could be completed within the next 18 months.

PentaStaph is a five-component vaccine candidate against S. aureus infections. Nabi added that this “multi-target approach” has been demonstrated in pre-clinical animal models to provide significant efficacy against the bacteria which is hoped would translate into human efficacy”.

All very early stage stuff but Nabi for one is delighted. The company, which also posted a second-quarter net loss of $5.8 million, compared with $3.7 million in the like, year-earlier period, is having a rough time of things and the board has been considering selling up.

However chief executive Raafat Fahim noted that the company is closely controlling costs, has significantly reduced debt levels “and eliminated the potential risk from a large indemnification claim”. News of the PentaStaph sale to GSK “validates the interest in Nabi and its products”, he added, and “we continue to have interest from and discussions with potential strategic partners for our remaining assets as we pursue our strategic alternatives process".

Now that PentaStaph has been sold, Nabi’s remaining asset is NicVax, a smoking-cessation treatment. The company has agreed Phase III trial designs with regulators in the USA and Europe but Nabi needs a partner to fund these studies.