Merck KGaA has bought the full US rights to a vaccine for lung cancer developed by Canada's Biomira in a bid to speed up the project, which has been held back by production problems.

Merck will now assume complete control of clinical trials and the commercialisation of the vaccine, known as L-BLP-25, which is scheduled to enter a Phase III clinical trial in non-small cell lung cancer patients in mid-2006.

The pivotal study was originally scheduled to start by the end of 2005, but the discovery of a stability problem in the vaccines production process forced a delay.

Biomira will retain rights to sell the product in Canada and Merck will pay Biomira royalties on sales of the drug and certain milestone payments linked to its development. Additional financial terms of the deal have not been disclosed.