Dutch biotechnology company Crucell has decided to sell off biopharmaceutical and vaccine manufacturer Rhein Biotech for around 10 million euros in cash.

Crucell acquired Rhein as part of its $450 million merger with Berna Biotech earlier this year, and its divestment allows the Dutch firm to remove some non-core assets and maintain its focus as a specialist vaccines unit, concentrating on its pipeline of Ebola, influenza, malaria and West Nile virus vaccines.

For the buyer, US vaccine maker Dynavax stands Rhein Biotech prvides a European manufacturing plant and gives it control over the production of hepatitis B surface antigen. Berna had been supplying the antigen to Dynavax for use in the US firm’s two-dose hepatitis B vaccine Heplisav, currently in Phase III testing.

Rhein has also been developing a therapeutic hepatitis B vaccine, as well as a vaccine against cytomegalovirus.

The transaction is expected to close in the second quarter of 2006.

Quinvaxem cleared in Korea

Meanwhile, Berna said its five-shots-in-one Quinvaxem vaccine, co-developed with Chiron, has been approved in Korea. Quinvaxem combines antigens for protection against five important childhood diseases: diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, hepatitis B and Haemophilus influenzae type b, one of the leading causes of bacterial meningitis in children.

It is the first internationally available fully liquid vaccine containing all five of the above antigens to reach the market, according to Berna.

The Swiss firm said it hoped to introduce the vaccine in the second half of the year, and estimates that current demand exceeds 50 million doses and should increase to more than 150 million doses per year over the next five years.