Shares in French drugmaker Transgene took a small knock yesterday in Europe after Swiss drug giant Roche cut its ties with the firm's vaccine for HPV-caused diseases.

Roche terminated its 2007 agreement with Transgene under which it held exclusive global development and commercialisation rights to TG4001/RG3484, a therapeutic vaccine candidate to treat high-grade cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN) lesions caused by infection with the human papilloma virus.

The vaccine is currently undergoing testing in a 200-patient Phase IIb clinical trial for this indication, but the Paris, France-based group said it did not think Roche's decision would have any impact on the study, with interim data still expected by the end of this year or early 2011.

Offering further reassurance to its investors that the vaccine still has a future, Transgene also said it has been told by Roche that the move is not data driven but based on strategic reasons, and noted that there shouldn't hit its financial performance in the short term.

"Although we are sorry to lose Roche as a corporate partner we remain committed to the product's development,” said Philippe Archinard, Transgene chairman. “Moreover, in this new context, the value of TG4001 for Transgene increases significantly and will of course increase even further if clinical data of the ongoing Phase IIb trial are positive,” he stressed.

If the current trial is successful then the vaccine should move into Phase III around the turn of 2012/2013, and the firm said it intends to seek a late-stage development partner for the product to help share development costs, but keep hold of greater ownership rights than it had under the Roche deal.