Abbott Laboratories has linked up with Astellas Pharma to help develop a late-stage vaccine for cytomegalovirus.

The firms have agreed to collaborate in a Phase IIIl trial for ASP0113, (also known as TransVax), an investigational vaccine licensed from Vical for preventing CMV reactivation in transplant patients. A herpes virus, CMV infects half of all adults by age 40 and is the most common viral infection in transplant recipients.

After primary infection, "CMV establishes lifelong latency without causing symptoms", says Abbott, noting that the virus "is often dormant in those who are healthy but can cause illness in immunocompromised people". Under the agreement, an Abbott assay will be used to monitor patients for CMV viral load in order to assess the vaccine's efficacy.

John Coulter, head of Abbott's molecular diagnostics business, said the deal with Astellas "gives us an opportunity to collaborate with another leader in the health care industry to better monitor patients to ensure proper treatment". In the last 12 months, Abbott has also signed  collaborations with Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline and Merck & Co focusing on the development of companion diagnostic tests for oncology therapeutics.