Sanofi Pasteur, the vaccines division of the sanofi-aventis Group, has entered into a binding agreement to take over VaxDesign, a US-based biotechnology company that manufactures, develops and markets in-vitro models of the human immune system.

VaxDesign is the developer of the Modular IMmune In-vitro Construct (MIMIC) technology that melds immunology with engineering to find solutions to complex biological problems.

MIMIC will be relevant in the assessment of the value of Sanofi Pasteur’s vaccine candidates, providing a key ‘filter’ in the preclinical stage for a ‘go/no go’ decision-making process before Phase I human clinical trials.

Under the terms of the agreement, Sanofi Pasteur will make an upfront payment of $55m upon closing of the transaction and an additional $5m upon realization of a certain development step.

Sanofi Pasteur R&D senior vice president Michel DeWilde said that MIMIC is the most-advanced platform in the field and with this novel model for understanding mechanisms of action, the probability of clinical success increases and the time to market should decrease.

“MIMIC successfully reproduced our own clinical data and is adaptable for the evaluation of multiple diseases and corresponding patient populations. This platform will provide a significant competitive advantage in the development of vaccines,” DeWilde said.

The closing of the transaction is expected to occur by the end of 2010, subject to customary conditions precedent.