Pfizer has acquired a controlling interest in Redvax, a spin-off from Switzerland’s Redbiotec, giving it access to a preclinical human cytomegalovirus vaccine candidate.

The transaction, the financial details for which have not been disclosed, includes intellectual property and a technology platform related to a second, undisclosed vaccine programme. CMV is a herpes virus and one out of every five children born with infection may experience hearing loss and severe neurologic disorders.

Pfizer noted that more children have disabilities due to congenital CMV than “other well-known infections and syndromes”, including Down syndrome, fetal alcohol syndrome, spina bifida and paediatric HIV/AIDS. It also cited the Institute of Medicine’s ranking of the development of a CMV vaccine as a highest priority; the estimated costs associated with the disease for the US healthcare system is at least $1.86 billion annually, more than $300,000 per child.

Kathrin Jansen, head of vaccine research and early development at Pfizer, said that with the acquisition of Redvax, “we will seek to develop a vaccine to prevent a difficult disease that can have a devastating and lifelong impact on young children."