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Transgene CEO Sees No Change to Pexa-Vec Plan After Deal

Transgene SA said it expects the development of the experimental Pexa-Vec cancer treatment to proceed according to plan after the purchase of U.S. partner Jennerex BioTherapeutics Inc.

“We are relieved; it’s good news for us,” Chief Executive Officer Philippe Archinard said in a telephone interview. “There will be no interruption in the Pexa-Vec program, no major delay. This is important.” Transgene rose 2.2 percent to 9.27 euros in Paris.

The French drug researcher, controlled by the Merieux family, said in a statement today that it supports the planned acquisition of Jennerex by its biggest shareholder, Sillajen Inc. Including potential future milestone payments, total consideration for the all-cash transaction may reach about $150 million, said Transgene, which owns about 8.5 percent of Jennerex.

Pexa-Vec, also known as JX594 or TG6006, uses a virus engineered to target and destroy cancerous cells. The companies are analyzing mid-stage trial data on the treatment and are planning the next stages of development, Archinard said.

The decision to move the compound into the next phase of trials may take “a couple extra weeks because formally we are in discussions with a different party,” though Transgene still expects to begin the phase III tests “within a year’s time,” he said. The Jennerex team working on Pexa-Vec will remain in place, Archinard said.

Right Way

“We consider that this offer values Jennerex the right way,” the CEO said.

Transgene shares have gained 15 percent this year, giving the Illkirch, France-based company a market value of 295.3 million euros ($400.3 million).

Pexa-Vec and the experimental lung-cancer treatment TG4010 are Transgene’s priorities, Archinard said.

Transgene expects to publish mid-stage trial results on TG4010 “at the very beginning” of 2014, Archinard said. Novartis AG, which acquired an option on the rights to the product in 2010, will then have 90 days to exercise that option, he said.

“Our interactions with Novartis are going very well,” Archinard said. “We are waiting for the results, and to transmit the data package to Novartis as quickly as possible.”

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