Shares in French biotechnology firm Transgene are set to soar today after Swiss drug giant Roche signed up as a partner for the former’s human papillomavirus vaccines.

The firms have entered into an exclusive worldwide collaboration deal to develop and commercialise products from Transgene’s therapeutic vaccine programme against HPV, which is associated with the development of precancerous lesions and cancer of the cervix. The agreement includes Transgene’s lead candidate TG 4001 (MVA-HPV-IL2), which is due to go into Phase III trials to treat high-grade cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN2/3), a precancerous cervical abnormality.

Under the terms of the deal, Transgene will receive 13 million euros as an upfront payment and 10 million euros as a near-term regulatory milestone related to planning the Phase III studies. Roche may also pay Transgene up to 195 million euros “upon the achievement of certain further development and sales-based events in various HPV-related indications," and the French firm will also be entitled to double-digit escalating royalties on sales once a product is marketed.

Roche added that it would hold all manufacturing rights but has agreed to allocate, on commercial terms, exclusive responsibility to Transgene for the clinical-trial supply of TG 4001 and additional HPV products, which may also be developed.

Peter Hug, Roche’s global head of pharma partnering, said that “Transgene is an ideal strategic fit” for the firm, “offering a differentiated approach to a precancerous condition with high unmet need.” He added that as Roche is a leader in in vitro diagnostics with strong capabilities in HPV detection, the collaboration “has the potential to expand and evolve into an integrated personalised medicine approach.”

Transgene’s chief executive Philippe Archinard was understandably delighted with the deal and said “this first strategic partnership is an acknowledgement of the validity of our technology and strategy. It is a considerable transforming event for Transgene that we anticipate will enable us to accelerate and broaden the development of our entire product portfolio.”