Novartis has entered the Japanese vaccines market by linking up with Takeda Pharmaceutical Co which will sell the Swiss major’s jab for the prevention of infection caused by Haemophilus influenzae type B (Hib).

Under the terms of the deal, Novartis will manufacture Vaxem-Hib and supply it to Takeda, which will obtain exclusive rights to market the vaccine in Japan. Cashwise, the country’s largest drugmaker will pay Novartis 100 million yen upfront, just over $1 million, plus milestones and royalties.

Takeda noted that it is now developing combination vaccines of four components – diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis and polio – using the seed virus for the Sabin-inactivated poliovirus it licensed from Japan Poliomyelitis Research in March 2008. The Osaka-based firm added that the deal gives it the right to develop and commercialise combination jabs including Hib vaccine outside Japan and Novartis has the prioritised right as a partner.

Every year in Japan, more than 450 children under the age of five are affected by Hib meningitis, which is responsible for some three million serious illnesses and an estimated 386,000 deaths per year worldwide.

Andrin Oswald, chief executive of Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics, said that Vaxem-Hib is the first of many vaccines that the firm hopes to bring to Japan, the world's third largest market valued at $640 million and growing.