Cytos Biotechnology has touched gold after getting involved with Pfizer’s drive into biologics.

The two companies have signed an agreement, which will see Cytos receiving $137 million (150 million Swiss francs) for Pfizer’s use of Cytos’ Immunodrug technology. The exclusive global research, option and license agreement with Pfizer Vaccines will be to research, develop, manufacture and commercialise novel vaccines for a defined number of human diseases.

“The vaccine market, including therapeutic vaccines, represents an increasingly attractive segment of the healthcare market. This collaboration with Pfizer further establishes Cytos’s Immunodrugs "as the vaccines of choice for top-tier pharmaceutical companies and complements our ongoing collaboration with Pfizer Animal Health,” the latter's executive vice president of business development Dr Mark Dyer said.

Under the terms of the contract, Pfizer will acquire world-wide exclusive rights to commercialise certain vaccines on completion of the research programmes. The specific disease targets it is looking at are described as “outside the scope of Cytos Biotechnology’s own programmes”.

Cytos would retain its rights to develop, manufacture and commercialise vaccines against different disease targets in the same human diseases. Pfizer would hold the responsibility for preclinical and clinical development, manufacturing and commercialisation of the vaccines.

Meanwhile, Cytos would receive an upfront payment of 10 million francs from Pfizer and would be eligible to receive up to 140 million francs in pre-commercial milestone payments and manufacturing technology transfer fees. The Swiss firm could also receive research funding and royalty payments.

The Immunodrug technology being used works by inducing a specific immune response against disease-associated target molecules. The target is then chemically attached to the surface of virus-like particles developing into a highly repetitive format. The resulting “immunodrugs” mimic a virus through this repetitive structure thereby prompting an antibody response against the selected targets.

As Pfizer faces looming patent expiries, the drug giant has been pushing hard into the biologics market with the intention of having 20% of its pipeline portfolio in the sector of biologics by 2009.

The company has spent more than $6 billion in the last four years on acquisitions as it expands in the sector.