‘mRNA has been validated’ – Pfizer looks beyond COVID

Pfizer is set to make around $15 billion from its COVID vaccine this year, but going forward the firm expects mRNA to be key in other applications.

Through its partnership with BioNTech, Pfizer became the first company to receive US and EU approval for a messenger RNA-based product, namely the COVID-19 vaccine BNT162b2.

Rollout of the vaccine continues across the globe and as such Pfizer has estimated it will realize approximately $15 billion in sales in 2021 alone.

Image: iStock/Fokusiert

Speaking at the virtual Barclays Global Healthcare Conference this week, the firm said it expects to see continued sales beyond 2021 through the likelihood of a need for a revaccination program. But  beyond COVID-19, Pfizer has its eye on leveraging the mRNA platform to develop other vaccines, starting with influenza.

“We believe that a multivalent mRNA based flu vaccine has the potential to significantly improve flu vaccine efficacy. We also believe that if we can significantly improve flu vaccine efficacy, we can also quite frankly significantly increase the overall flu market based on increased uptake,” Frank D’Amelio, Pfizer’s CFO told stakeholders.

“From a timing perspective we think, we could try to get some early clinical data late this year and hopefully a proof-of-concept within a year from now. That’s kind of the time line that we’re thinking about relative to the flu. But we see flu at least currently we see flu is potentially a significant opportunity for us.”

Chuck Triano, SVP of Investor Relations, added the mRNA platform itself “will provide another leg of the stool, so to speak, of our vaccines research platform.”

He continued: “In terms of other applications beyond flu and beyond COVID, we haven’t been specific at this point but given how much we’ve learned through this process, we do see that there are potential even additional opportunities for this platform. And I think we can all agree on the Zoom meeting that mRNA has been validated…this really opens the door for us to really look at other potential applications of mRNA.”

2 billion doses

The investor talk saw management also talk about its impressive vaccine manufacturing scale-up, and how it has been able to increase predicted dose production from 1.3 billion to beyond 2 billion for 2021.

D’Amelio explained that this is down to “very significant improvement in terms of our supply chain capabilities,” before going into more details:

“The specialist syringe where we’re getting six doses per vial now instead of five, we’ve doubled our batch runs per week. We’ve doubled the yield in each of those batch runs. So, that’s almost a factor of four compared to where we were originally. We’ve expanded our own facilities with existing manufacturing lines. We’ve added new suppliers. We’ve added new contract manufacturers.

“So you put all of that together we’ve really made I think significant progress in terms of our manufacturing capabilities and our ability to produce and supply and deliver the vaccine. So really good progress.”

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