Oxford BioMedica’s long search to find a partner for its cancer vaccine TroVax has ended with the UK firm signing a deal with Sanofi-Aventis that could be worth over one billion euros, when potential royalties are taking into account.

Under the terms of the deal, Sanofi will pay Oxford BioMedica up to 518 million euros if TroVax meets all development and registration targets “ for certain defined indications” and additional payments will be made if regulatory milestones are achieved in other cancer types. Initially the UK firm will receive an initial sum of 29 million euros, plus further “near-term payments” of 19 million euros linked to the ongoing Phase III TRIST study of the vaccine in renal cancer and an entitlement to escalating royalties on global sales of TroVax and further undisclosed commercial milestones.

Oxford BioMedica has an option to develop TroVax for other cancer types “in exchange for enhanced financial returns” and Sanofi will retain all the commercial rights. The two companies stated that they will now co-fund the TRIST study, and the Franco-German drugmaker will pay for all future R&D, regulatory and commercialisation activities, “including the immediate implementation of a development plan" for TroVax in metastatic colorectal cancer. Oxford BioMedica added that it has an option to participate in the promotion of TroVax in the USA and the European Union.

Trovax shows potential in other cancers

TroVax is designed to stimulate an immune response to the tumour antigen 5T4, which is broadly distributed throughout a wide range of solid tumours, and as well as renal and colorectal, the vaccine has potential application in lung, breast and prostate cancers, Oxford BioMedica claims. Over 180 patients have already been treated with TroVax in studies in renal, colorectal and prostate cancer, and the vaccine has found to be safe and well tolerated in all trials to date.

Signing up such a high-profile partner, especially given Sanofi’s expertise in vaccines, is a great boost for Oxford BioMedica but the firm’s shares actually closed down 4.8% on the news as many investors indulged in a spot of profit-taking. The stock price has doubled over the last six months in anticipation of a partner being announced and most observers were not disappointed when Sanofi was named, although the fact that it has made a fairly small initial payment suggests the project is a risky one. Oxford Biomedica seems confident though and if all goes well, it will hope to launch TroVax for renal cancer in 2009.