Aviragen Therapeutics Inc (AVIR) Announces Definitive Merger Agreement with Vaxart; Shares Fall 13%


Aviragen Therapeutics Inc (NASDAQ:AVIR) and Vaxart announced the signing of a definitive merger agreement, which will result in a combined company, Vaxart, Inc., focused on developing orally-delivered therapeutics and prophylactics to address a variety of viral infections.

Aviragen investors apparently didn’t like the news. The company’s stock fell 13% in Monday’s trading session.

Vaxart CEO Wouter Latour, “We are thrilled with the prospect of combining forces with Aviragen, which will create a deep pipeline of antiviral products and allow Vaxart to accelerate development of the promising vaccine candidates that are based on our proprietary oral delivery platform […] This transaction gives us the opportunity to build on the positive Phase 2 challenge study results we announced recently for our influenza oral tablet vaccine, as well as the excellent results we obtained in the safety and immunogenicity studies with our norovirus vaccine.  Additionally, it will provide us access to Aviragen’s antiviral assets, including their BTA074 Phase 2 program for the treatment of condyloma caused by HPV, which is on track to complete enrollment this quarter and to report top-line safety and efficacy data in the second quarter of 2018.”

“We believe our oral vaccine programs are significantly de-risked based on the positive clinical outcome of the BARDA-funded H1N1 influenza Phase 2 challenge study which  serves as proof of concept for our technology platform as a whole,” continued Latour, “and we look forward to taking our norovirus vaccine into a Phase 2 challenge study next.  Norovirus is the leading cause of acute viral gastroenteritis in the United States, causing frequent outbreaks across the population, and we believe our oral tablet vaccine would be the optimal approach to address this unmet medical need.”

The Vaxart technology platform has been engineered for the delivery of a wide range of oral vaccines, initially targeting norovirus, human papilloma virus (HPV), respiratory syncytial virus, and influenza, using a convenient and room temperature-stable tablet, which eliminates the need for injection.  In clinical studies to date, Vaxart vaccines consistently generated broad systemic and local immune responses that could provide important advantages in preventing infection, as well as robust T cell responses that we believe are essential to obtain a therapeutic benefit in chronic viral infection and cancer.

Aviragen CEO Joseph M. Patti stated, “After a comprehensive review of strategic alternatives, we are delighted to announce this transaction with Vaxart, which will complement Aviragen’s focus on infectious diseases and position us to create both near and long-term value for our stockholders […] Vaxart is well-funded to advance its norovirus and HPV antiviral vaccine programs, and together with BTA074, the combined companies are poised to provide meaningful value-creating data readouts.”

Today, Vaxart will be announcing positive results from the company’s Phase 1b open-label, dose-ranging study assessing the safety and immunogenicity of VXA-G1.1-NN, Vaxart’s norovirus oral tablet vaccine, in 60 healthy adult volunteers. VXA-G1.1-NN met both the primary and secondary endpoints for safety and immunogenicity in the clinical trial. Based on the favorable clinical data, a Phase 2 norovirus challenge study is expected to begin in the second half of 2018. To date, Vaxart has dosed more than 300 adult volunteers with its vaccines for norovirus, respiratory syncytial virus and influenza.

Aviragen engages in the discovery and development of direct-acting antivirals to treat infections. Its product candidates include vapendavir, an oral treatment for human rhinovirus infections in moderate-to-severe asthmatics; BTA074, a topical antiviral treatment for genital warts caused by human papillomavirus types 6 & 11; BTA585, an oral fusion protein inhibitor for the treatment of RSV-A and RSV-B infections; and laninamivir octanoate, a one-time, inhaled treatment for influenza A and B infections.