Gilead Sciences and GlobeImmune have entered into an exclusive worldwide licence and collaboration agreement to develop and market therapeutic vaccine products to treat chronic hepatitis B in conjunction with Viread (tenofovir disoproxil fumarate) and other oral therapies.

Gilead will pay GlobeImmune an upfront payment and provide support for continued development of GlobeImmune’s hepatitis B therapeutic vaccine programme through Phase Ia clinical trials.

GlobeImmune will also receive additional payments based on achievement of development programme, as well as royalties on future potential net sales.

The parties expect that the combination of a therapeutic vaccine with oral suppressive antiviral therapy could help increase surface antigen loss with seroconversion.

GlobeImmune R&D senior vice-president and chief medical officer David Apelian said that earlier proof-of-concept studies in hepatitis C suggested that the combination of company’s Tarmogen immunotherapy products and oral suppressive antiviral therapy will help eliminate the cells harbouring the hepatitis B virus, thus increasing seroconversion within a finite period.

Gilead R&D executive vice-president and chief scientific officer Norbert Bischofberger said they hope that this approach will allow them to explore whether adaptive immunomodulatory approaches to hepatitis B will help improve surface antigen seroconversion, and eliminate the need for life-long daily therapy.