Baxter exits vaccines business as it preps for biopharma spinout

By Dan Stanton

- Last updated on GMT

A dry fracture of a Vero cell exposing the contents of a vacuole where Coxiella burnetii (the Bacteria that cause Q Fever) are growing
A dry fracture of a Vero cell exposing the contents of a vacuole where Coxiella burnetii (the Bacteria that cause Q Fever) are growing

Related tags Influenza vaccine Influenza

Baxter has sold its pandemic flu portfolio and Vero cell technology to Nanotherapeutics in preparation for the launch of its haematology and oncology-based spinout company Baxalta. 

Originally announced in March​, Baxter’s decision to separate its biopharma business was driven by growth opportunities in the areas of haemotology, oncology and biosimilars, and in preparation for the launch of ‘Baxalta’​ next year, the firm has divested its Vero cell vaccine platform.

Spokesperson Kellie Hotz told the sale to Florida-based development and biomanufacturing firm Nanotherapeutics includes Baxter’s pandemic flu vaccines Celvapan, Vepacel and Preflucel, all of which are manufactured from the Vero cell platform.

 “[The] Vero cell platform is an advanced cell-based technology for production of vaccines that offers greater scale and responsiveness to new and emerging pandemics, such as avian flu, compared to traditional egg-based culture technologies,”​ she said.

“The technology uses a well-established cell line to produce vaccines in a unique serum protein-free medium, significantly reducing production time.”

Nanotherapeutics is also acquiring Baxter’s production facility in Bohumil, Czech Republic, and will take on around 40 employees who have been maintaining the site, in accordance with their employment contracts, she added.

Vaccine Exit

With this sale, Baxter has completed its exit from vaccine production following the sale in July​ of its NeisVac-C and FSME-IMMUN/TicoVac vaccines – used against meningitis and tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) respectively – and a facility in Austria to Pfizer for $635m (€510m).

The firm will now focus “on core areas of expertise – immunology, hematology/oncology and technology platforms such as gene therapy and biosimilars – as [it] prepares to become an independent global biopharmaceutical company in mid-2015,”​ Hotz explained.

In 2013​, Baxter’s vaccine division reported sales of $292m, up 15% on the previous year but still a small percentage of the overall $6.6bn worth of revenue brought in by the BioScience business. Sales of haemophilia products were $3.4bn, while biotherapeutics clocked in $2.1bn. 

Baxter is not the only Big Biopharma to have divested its vaccines business. Swiss Giant Novartis recently divested its flu vaccine division to CSL Limited for $275m​, while GlaxoSmithKline is on the verge of buying​ the rest of its vaccines business for around $7bn.

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