Austrian biotechnology firm Intercell has been boosted by the news that the US has posted a request to purchase the firm’s vaccine against Japanese Encephalitis for use by military personnel.

Specifically, the Defense Logistics Agency, part of the USStates Department of Defense, intends to enter into a contract to buy supplies of JE vaccine for use with soldiers who are deployed to affected countries. JE, a mosquito-borne infection, remains virulent in Asia and has recently spread to countries not previously infected, the Vienna-headquartered firm says.

The virus is “a constant health threat to millions of civilian travelers and military personnel visiting or being deployed to affected countries, including China and India”, Intercell adds. There is no treatment, “so vaccination is the primary countermeasure against this disease”, the firm notes.

The contract under discussion would see Intercell supply the DLA for five years at least and the former believes that one reason for this proposed deal at this time is its pending Biological License Application with the US Food and Drug Administration for the JE vaccine. The BLA was submitted in December last year and FDA approval and subsequent first sales to military markets are expected in the next few months.

Net loss narrows
Gerd Zettlmeissl, Intercell chief executive, said the firm plans to respond to the DLA’s request in a timely manner “and we are optimistic that we can successfully close a contract in due time." He was speaking just after the firm reported first-half revenues that more than trebled to 17.6 million euros, while net loss decreased 44% to 8.6 million euros.

Intercell, in which Novartis holds a 16% stake, hopes to achieve full-year profitability despite its acquisition of the USA’s Iomai Corp, which closed earlier this month. The cash-and-stock deal, which will give it access to Iomai’s late-stage needle-free patch delivery travellers' diarrhoea vaccine, is valued at $189 million.