Bavarian Nordic ends cancer vaccine program

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Biotech firm Bavarian Nordic is ceasing all work on its cancer vaccine program, instead prioritizing its infectious disease projects.

Addressing its 2023 financial results, the Hellerup, Denmark-based company said in a statement on its website that its TAEK-VAC vaccine program has reached a stage where clinical expansion and further investment would be needed. The company has opted to discontinue the TAEK-VAC project, instead prioritizing its infectious disease programs through product improvements and vaccine development. The firm added that it “has no further plans to invest in immuno-oncology vaccine development.”

The first stage of a phase I trial of the TAEK-VAC vaccine has been completed, with enrollment open for the second stage.

The firm was facing fierce competition in the quest for a cancer vaccine; Merck and Moderna’s melanoma vaccine candidate V940 is currently being studied in a phase III trial.

Bavarian Nordic is currently conducting a phase III trial for a chikungunya vaccine. Results released in early August 2023 showed that 98% of vaccinated patients who took the vaccine had a strong induction of chikungunya-neutralizing antibodies; 97% of vaccinated patients had significant antibodies within two weeks of vaccination, and 86% had seroprotective levels of antibodies six months following vaccination. The company said that it anticipated regulatory submissions for the vaccine in 2024.

If approved, this would be the second available vaccine for chikungunya; French biotech firm Valneva’s Ixchiq vaccine received U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval in November 2023. There were previously no vaccines available for the mosquito-borne illness, which, while not usually fatal, has a high morbidity rate and causes significant economic burden.

Bavarian Nordic’s equine encephalitis vaccine candidate MVA-BN WEV, developed in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Defense, has recently completed a phase I trial; phase II is planned for 2024.

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