Drug Research
Drug Discovery & Development

Aviragen Therapeutics and Vaxart sign merger deal

PBR Staff Writer Published 01 November 2017

Aviragen Therapeutics, which is engaged in the discovery and development of direct-acting antivirals to treat infections with limited therapeutic options, has signed a merger agreement with Vaxart, a clinical-stage company focused on developing oral recombinant vaccines.

The merger will result in a combined company, Vaxart, Inc., focused on developing orally-delivered therapeutics and prophylactics to address a variety of viral infections.

“We are thrilled with the prospect of combining forces with Aviragen, which will create a deep pipeline of antiviral products and allow Vaxart to accelerate development of the promising vaccine candidates that are based on our proprietary oral delivery platform,” said Wouter Latour, M.D., Chief Executive Officer of Vaxart.

“This transaction gives us the opportunity to build on the positive Phase 2 challenge study results we announced recently for our influenza oral tablet vaccine, as well as the excellent results we obtained in the safety and immunogenicity studies with our norovirus vaccine. Additionally, it will provide us access to Aviragen’s antiviral assets, including their BTA074 Phase 2 program for the treatment of condyloma caused by HPV, which is on track to complete enrollment this quarter and to report top-line safety and efficacy data in the second quarter of 2018.”

“We believe our oral vaccine programs are significantly de-risked based on the positive clinical outcome of the BARDA-funded H1N1 influenza Phase 2 challenge study which serves as proof of concept for our technology platform as a whole,” continued Latour, “and we look forward to taking our norovirus vaccine into a Phase 2 challenge study next. Norovirus is the leading cause of acute viral gastroenteritis in the United States, causing frequent outbreaks across the population, and we believe our oral tablet vaccine would be the optimal approach to address this unmet medical need.”

The Vaxart technology platform has been engineered for the delivery of a wide range of oral vaccines, initially targeting norovirus, human papilloma virus (HPV), respiratory syncytial virus, and influenza, using a convenient and room temperature-stable tablet, which eliminates the need for injection.

In clinical studies to date, Vaxart vaccines consistently generated broad systemic and local immune responses that could provide important advantages in preventing infection, as well as robust T cell responses that we believe are essential to obtain a therapeutic benefit in chronic viral infection and cancer.

“After a comprehensive review of strategic alternatives, we are delighted to announce this transaction with Vaxart, which will complement Aviragen’s focus on infectious diseases and position us to create both near and long-term value for our stockholders,” said Joseph M. Patti, Ph.D., President and Chief Executive Officer of Aviragen Therapeutics.

“Vaxart is well-funded to advance its norovirus and HPV antiviral vaccine programs, and together with BTA074, the combined companies are poised to provide meaningful value-creating data readouts.”

Today, Vaxart will be announcing positive results from the company’s Phase 1b open-label, dose-ranging study assessing the safety and immunogenicity of VXA-G1.1-NN, Vaxart’s norovirus oral tablet vaccine, in 60 healthy adult volunteers.

VXA-G1.1-NN met both the primary and secondary endpoints for safety and immunogenicity in the clinical trial. Based on the favorable clinical data, a Phase 2 norovirus challenge study is expected to begin in the second half of 2018. To date, Vaxart has dosed more than 300 adult volunteers with its vaccines for norovirus, respiratory syncytial virus and influenza.

The exchange ratio in the merger agreement was determined by assigning $60 million in value to Aviragen for its financial and clinical assets and $90 million in value for Vaxart’s assets.

On a pro forma basis, after giving effect to the number of shares of Aviragen common stock issued in the merger, Vaxart’s securityholders will own approximately 60% of the combined company and Aviragen securityholders will own approximately 40% of the combined company, subject to certain potential adjustments as described in the merger agreement.

The transaction has been approved by the board of directors of both companies. The merger is expected to close in the first quarter of 2018, subject to the approval of the stockholders of each company as well as other customary conditions. Wouter Latour, M.D., will serve as Chief Executive Officer of the combined company.

Upon the closing of the transaction, the name of the combined company will become Vaxart, Inc. and shares of the combined are expected to continue trading on NASDAQ under the proposed ticker symbol “VXRT.”

Stifel, Nicolaus & Company, Incorporated is acting as financial advisor to Aviragen, and Dechert LLP is serving as legal counsel to Aviragen. Cooley LLP is serving as legal counsel to Vaxart.

Aviragen will reduce its workforce by six to a total of 10 full-time employees, who will remain on board to complete the BTA074 Phase 2 clinical trial and assist with the transition of duties to the Vaxart management team.

Source: Company Press Release