GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) made historic news on Tuesday when it was announced that data from a clinical trial in Africa has shown that the company's experimental malaria vaccine halved the risk of African children getting malaria. Data from the study, according to reports released Tuesday afternoon, "showed that for the 12 months following vaccination, the potential vaccine reduced the risk of clinical malaria in African children by 56 percent, and severe malaria in the same population by 47 percent."

Needless to say, this is a huge development in the ability of mankind to combat a devastating disease that plagues hundreds of thousands of people a year in Africa, which leads to countless numbers of needless deaths.

If the final results of this trial are just as successful as those published in the New England Journal Of Medicine, then medical history can chalk up another great victory.

Shares of GSK were up modestly on the news, and then quickly retreated, given that the market cap of the company is already over a hundred billion and reports have it that Glaxo is not planning to profit from this venture, but shares of the microcap biotech Agenus (AGEN) flew as much as 60% higher on the news because its vaccine adjuvant QS-21 is used in the malaria vaccine.

Agenis is only expected to receive a small royalty from sales of this vaccine, but any association with a powerhouse company such as Glaxo by a very small player like AGEN is going to lead to some serious hype and attention for the little, whether justified or not.

The news will also bring attention to the fact that QS-21 is also being used in over a dozen other vaccine candidates, giving some indication that even a small royalty stream will pay off if multiple products make it to market; and it's safe to assume in this business that not all of the QS-21 associated vaccines are going to go to market with the manufacturing intent to NOT make a profit.

On that note, how many of us believe that GSK actually intends to not make a dime off this vaccine? In the pharmaceutical business, not look for any profit?

Come on now. Reasonably prices, I'll buy, but these big companies see dollar signs first and foremost, the days of doing things for the benefit of humanity are long gone.

TheStreet.com's biotech blogger, however, had a different view on Tuesday. In an unsurprising move, the biotech blog published a post disregarding any positive effects that this blockbuster news might have on bringing attention to Agenus, but in a surprising move, the blog author left his skepticism at home regarding the 'non-profit' comments from GSK. This guy, the one who consistently tells his readers how full of it the biotech/pharmaceutical community really is, whole-heartedly buys into the fact that GSK won't look to make a dime on this malaria vaccine.

Again, I find that hard to believe. What I don't find hard to believe is that the biotech blogger is ready to toss away his skepticism when it works conveniently to bash a small company that is also producing a potentially life-saving treatment.


The real news of the day, for-profit or not-for-profit, is that this vaccine will hopefully shape the future for combating malaria.

This day was long overdue.

And if GSK is true to its word about not seeking to make any money on this? Then good on them, but that would mean they'll be giving the vaccine away when the break-even point is met, and I'm not buying it for a second.

Disclosure: Long AGEN.

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