Pfizer has acquired a controlling interest in Redvax, a spinoff from Redbiotec, a privately held Swiss biopharmaceutical company, based in Zurich-Schlieren. This transaction provides access to a preclinical human cytomegalovirus (CMV) vaccine candidate, as well as intellectual property and a technology platform related to a second, undisclosed vaccine program.
The CMV vaccine program will complement Pfizer's robust research portfolio of investigational vaccines and place Pfizer among the leaders in CMV R&D. CMV is a herpes virus, infecting 50-90% of the adult population, with a majority remaining asymptomatic. A large segment of young adults, especially women of childbearing age who remain CMV negative, are at high risk of CMV infection during pregnancy and of passing the infection on to the unborn child (congenital infection).
There are potentially serious and lifelong consequences for babies born with the disease. One out of every five children born with CMV infection may experience hearing loss and severe neurologic disorders. More children have disabilities due to congenital CMV than other well-known infections and syndromes, including Down syndrome, fetal alcohol syndrome, spina bifida and pediatric HIV/AIDS.
"We are working to bring innovative vaccines to market that prevent and treat serious diseases," said Kathrin U. Jansen, Ph.D., senior vice president & CSO Vaccine Research & Early Development for Pfizer. "Through the acquisition of the Redvax innovative CMV vaccine platform and expertise we will seek to develop a vaccine to prevent a difficult disease that can have a devastating and lifelong impact on young children."
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that, in the U.S., approximately 5,000 children each year develop lasting health problems caused by CMV such as hearing or vision loss and mental disability. The Institute of Medicine has ranked the development of a CMV vaccine as a highest priority because of the lives it would save and the disabilities it would prevent. The estimated costs associated with CMV disease for the U.S. health care system amounts to at least $1.86 billion annually. CMV expenses can run more than $300,000 per child.