Days after signing a deal worth up to $890 million to get access to an Antisoma oncology drug, Novartis has announced an agreement to buy global rights to an anti-smoking vaccine made by fellow Swiss firm Cytos Biotechnology.

Cytos, which has seen its shares leap this morning, has granted the drug major an exclusive global license agreement to develop, manufacture and commercialize CYT002-NicQb, a vaccine in Phase II studies for the treatment of nicotine addiction. Under the terms of the deal, Novartis is making an upfront payment of 35 million Swiss francs and may shell out up to 600 million francs (almost $500 million), plus royalties.

"This unique compound complements our efforts to provide a range of new treatment options to patients and physicians across a wide range of respiratory diseases," said Thomas Ebeling, chief executive of Novartis Pharma AG. "Smoking remains a cause of many fatal diseases, and vaccine technology represents an important new approach to help people overcome their addiction to nicotine and stop smoking permanently." CYT002-NicQb is scheduled to enter late-stage trials in 2008.

This is the second deal the two firms have signed as Novartis acquired CAD106 from Cytos in 2001 as a vaccine therapy for Alzheimer's disease and the treatment is currently in Phase I clinical trials. Cytos has recently been rumoured to be a takeover target for the Swiss major and its shares have risen accordingly of late.