- Brii Biosciences has acquired broader rights to an experimental immunotherapy for hepatitis B developed by VBI Vaccines, as well as to the latter company’s approved hepatitis B vaccine in a small deal announced Wednesday afternoon.
- The Cambridge, Massachusetts-based VBI will receive from Brii $15 million upfront, $3 million of which will come as an equity investment. VBI could receive up to $422 million more as part of the agreement, which gives Brii worldwide rights to the immunotherapy and rights in the Asia Pacific region to VBI’s vaccine.
- The two biotechs have been working together since 2018 in hopes of developing a hepatitis B cure. The new deal comes on the heels of VBI restructuring its business in April, when it cut costs and laid off around one-third of its workforce.
The hepatitis B virus causes liver infections that can lead to jaundice, nausea and stomach problems. While infections are a short-term illness for some, in others they can become chronic and result in more serious health impacts. The risk of a chronic infection is greater the younger a person is, although most people over the age of six recover.
A number of preventive vaccines exist for both infants and adults, but there is no curative treatment for those who already have a chronic infection.
One of those vaccines is VBI’s. Called PreHevbri or PreHevbrio, the shot is the only one approved for use in the U.S. that targets three hepatitis B antigens. Wednesday’s deal gives Brii rights to it in the Asia Pacific, excluding Japan, while VBI will retain global rights elsewhere.
VBI’s immunotherapy, dubbed VB1-2601, is currently being studied in two Phase 2 trials. Interim data from one that’s evaluating the drug alongside an RNA-based treatment were announced in February.
Other drugmakers are also exploring new hepatitis B treatments, most notably GSK, which has advanced a candidate into Phase 3 testing. Data are expected sometime in 2025. Much earlier is startup Bluejay Therapeutics, which recently raised $41 million for its research.
On the other side of the ledger, Johnson & Johnson’s recent restructuring of its infectious disease division has left the future of an experimental Arrowhead Pharmaceuticals treatment up in the air.