Abbott-Astellas Collaborate

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Abbott Laboratories (ABT) recently announced that it is collaborating with Astellas Pharma Global Development for a phase III study being conducted with ASP0113 (TransVax). TransVax, a vaccine in-licensed by Astellas from Vical Inc. (VICL), is being developed for the prevention of cytomegalovirus (:CMV) reactivation in transplant patients.

Under the collaboration, patients will be monitored for CMV viral load using Abbott Labs’ RealTime CMV assay, which is performed on the Abbott m2000 System. This will help evaluate the vaccine’s efficacy.

CMV, which infects 50% of all adults by the time they reach age 40, is the most common viral infection in transplant recipients.

Another company that is working on the development of a CMV infection treatment is ViroPharma Inc. (VPHM). ViroPharma is currently conducting a phase II program to evaluate maribavir for the treatment of CMV infections in transplant recipients.

Maribavir will be studied in two independent phase II trials that will be conducted in patients who have asymptomatic CMV and patients who have failed therapy with other anti-CMV agents.

Abbott Labs’ partnership with Astellas is its fourth collaboration with a large pharma company in the last one year. Other agreements include Abbott Labs’ collaborations with Pfizer (PFE), Merck (MRK) and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) for the development of companion diagnostic tests that can be used to select patients suitable for certain oncology products.

Neutral on Abbott Labs

We currently have a Neutral recommendation on Abbott Labs, which carries a Zacks #3 Rank (short-term Hold rating). Abbott Labs remains on track to split into two separate publicly traded companies by the end of 2012.

While one company will deal in diversified medical products, the other (AbbVie) will focus on research-based pharmaceuticals. We are positive on the split which should allow the two separate entities to perform in a more focused manner. Humira continues to perform well and this should reduce concerns regarding AbbVie’s growth prospects.

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