Oxford BioMedica has agreed to acquire fellow UK vaccine firm Oxxon Therapeutics, which focuses on cancer and infectious diseases, in an all-share transaction valued at around £16 million.

The rationale behind the Oxxon acquisition is that it provides Oxford BioMedica with a cancer immunotherapy treatment, Hi-8 MEL, which will complement its own flagship cancer drug TroVax. Oxxon has other therapeutic programmes addressing infectious diseases, including hepatitis B and HIV and the assets acquired also include net cash of around £3 million.

Oxford BioMedica chief executive Alan Kingsman said that the Hi-8 MEL vaccine has generated encouraging Phase II results as a treatment of advanced melanoma and noted that “the market opportunity for an effective melanoma vaccine is substantial.” He added that “this is a cancer type where our immunotherapy, TroVax, cannot be developed because, unlike the vast majority of human tumours, melanomas do not have 5T4 on the surface of the tumour cells.”

John Berriman, executive deputy chairman of Oxxon, said the firm is pleased to be joining forces “with one of the world's leading companies in cancer vaccines and gene therapy [and] there is clear synergy between the two."

Oxford BioMedica, which recently posted an increase in its losses for 2006, hopes to be able to announce a licensing partner for TroVax in the very near future.