Not two months after the Swiss start-up Cytos's experimental anti-smoking vaccine failed in a mid-stage study, Nabi Biopharmaceuticals (NABI) and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) have signed a licensing agreement for Nabi's own anti-smoking vaccine, NicVAX. The deal, which could potentially be worth more than half a billion dollars, helped push NABI shares 25% higher.
NicVAX is an experimental therapy for the treatment of nicotine addiction and the prevention of smoking relapse. The vaccine is designed to stimulate the immune system to produce antibodies that bind to the nicotine molecules. Once bound together, they are too large to cross the blood-brain barrier. In this way, the nicotine is blocked from reaching the receptors in the brain that cause the highly-addictive pleasure sensation experienced by smokers and users of nicotine products. When nicotine is prevented from supplying them the sensation they crave, smokers have an easier time kicking the habit.