Takeda Pharmaceutical Co is to acquire Inviragen, a USA-based privately-held vaccines specialist, for up to $250 million.

The Japanese major is paying $35 million upfront and may fork out another $215 million linked to the progress of clinical development and achievement of key commercial milestones. Inviragen's lead candidate, DENVax, is a four-strain recombinant viral vaccine for the prevention of dengue infection and is currently being evaluated in Phase II trials.

In addition to DENVax, Inviragen is working on a vaccine to protect against hand, foot and mouth disease caused by enterovirus 71 (EV71), which has completed Phase I. It has also developed a recombinant vaccine to protect against chikungunya, a viral disease spread by mosquitoes, which is currently in preclinical studies.

Tadataka Yamada, Takeda’s chief medical and scientific officer, noted that  coming less than a year after the acquisition of LigoCyte "with the world’s leading norovirus vaccine candidate", he said that the Inviragen buy illustrates the firm’s commitment to its global vaccine business".

The acquisition also means Takeda gets a facility in Wisconsin and a vaccine development centre in Singapore, "in one of the regions where Inviragen’s vaccines will have the greatest impact". The latter merged with Singapore-based SingVax in 2009.