Pfizer agrees to acquire vaccine developer


BOSTON, Oct 9 (Reuters) - Pfizer Inc. (PFE.N: Quote, Profile, Research) said on Monday it has agreed to acquire privately held PowderMed Ltd. for an undisclosed sum in a bid to enter the increasingly lucrative market for vaccines.

Based in Oxford, England, PowderMed has developed a proprietary technology that delivers DNA-coated microscopic gold particles into the skin to help the immune system fight influenza and chronic viral diseases.

he acquisition comes as fears of a bird-flu pandemic continue, helping turn the formerly low-growth vaccines business into one of the fastest-growing in the pharmaceuticals industry.

Pfizer's rival GlaxoSmithKline Plc (GSK.L: Quote, Profile, Research) predicted last month that global vaccine sales would triple by 2015, from about $11 billion in 2005.

The move also reflects Pfizer's changing approach to its business development, David Shedlarz, the company's vice chairman, said in a statement.

Pfizer typically acquires or licenses products in mid- to late-stage development, but competition for such products has become increasingly intense.

Last week Gilead Sciences Inc. (GILD.O: Quote, Profile, Research), one of the world's biggest biotechnology companies, agreed to acquire Myogen Inc. (MYOG.O: Quote, Profile, Research) for $2.5 billion to gain access to its late-stage experimental hypertension drug.

PowderMed specializes in developing powder-based DNA vaccines. Unlike conventional vaccines, this technique uses fragments of DNA to stimulate an immune response by blasting tiny particles into the skin instead of using a needle.

In addition to its influenza program, PowderMed has programs aimed at developing vaccines against hepatitis B, genital herpes, genital warts, lung cancer and HIV/AIDS.

PowderMed was created two years ago when Chiron spun off the the powder injection part of the PowderJect Pharmaceuticals business it had acquired in 2003. Chiron itself has since been acquired by Novartis AG. (NOVN.VX: Quote, Profile, Research).

PowderMed's venture capital backers include Schroder Ventures Life Sciences, Advent Venture Partners, Abingworth Management Ltd and Oxford Bioscience Partners.