Not being reliant on a single platform is an advantage in a vaccine industry where traditional barriers to entry have been broken by the advent of mRNA, says GSK.
Historically, the vaccine space more than any other modality has struggled with manufacturing inflexibility and expensive entry requirements. A few years ago, the market was controlled by just four companies – GSK, Sanofi, Merck & Co., Pfizer – which generated nearly 90% of total vaccine revenue.
But COVID-19 efforts brought about the commercialization of messenger RNA (mRNA), which requires smaller more flexible manufacturing footprints, and with it new entrants in the vaccine market (notably Moderna).
When asked at Citi’s Annual BioPharma Conference last week whether mRNA has “democratized” the vaccine space by reducing barriers to entry, Phil Dormitzer, GSK’s head of Vaccines R&D, said it had, though a certain amount of CAPEX and skills remain requisite.
GSK sold £7.9 billion ($9.9 billion) worth of vaccines in 2022 (including £64 million in pandemic vaccines), across a range of vaccine platforms, something Dormitzer said was a strength.
“We’re not reliant on any single platform,” he said. “We have over 20 licensed vaccines right now, many of which have life cycle management programs as well.” This includes conventional glycoconjugates, bioconjugates, E. coli expression-based vaccines, protein subunits, and historic live attenuated vaccines.
“I think there’s still lots of room for innovation, both internally and externally,” he said, referencing nucleic acid-based vaccines and carbohydrate-based vaccines that show “there remain many opportunities for innovation within the categories as well.”
Dormitzer also spoke about its Multiple Antigen Presenting System (MAPS), a conjugate-based technology, added through the $2.1 billion acquisition of Affinivax last year.
“The MAPS technology is not a conventional glycoconjugate, where you chemically activate the individual carbohydrates, rather the carrier proteins are genetically fused to is evident. The carbohydrate biotinylated is just a very simple noncovalent, but very strong interaction. And it does appear that as you get to the higher valences, the MAPS technology – which is this noncovalent, but strong technology – does appear to allow you to get to higher valences without the same degree of diminution of response against individual valences,” he told stakeholders.
“The original interest in the MAPS technology was because it made manufacturing so easy. It turns out that it also allows you to get to these higher valences with continued good coverage.
“There’s another potential advantage of the technology, and that is that the carrier proteins themselves, or pneumococcal proteins, against which immunity maybe elicited, we currently judge # these vaccines on the basis of anti-carbohydrate immunity. The potential additional benefit of anti-protein immunity is potentially additive to that.”
The lead candidate using MAPS is GSK-5101955A (ASP-3772) under Phase II development for the prevention of Streptococcus pneumoniae infections.