Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna were the first to win emergency use authorization from FDA for COVID-19 vaccines. Johnson & Johnson recently got its own permission to distribute its vaccine.
While the pandemic offers pharmaceutical companies a unique opportunity to curry favor with the public and politicians, the current dearth of vaccines is partly a result of Big Pharma companies being “missing in action,” according to Zain Rizvi, a pharma-focused researcher at Public Citizen researcher, quoted in Financial Times.
COVID-19 vaccines could be a cash cow for Pfizer and Moderna. The former expects to rake in $15 billion worth of vaccines this year, while Moderna has forecasted $18.4 billion in sales.
Smaller vaccine companies such as Moderna, BioNTech and Novavax have seen their stock increase dramatically since the beginning of the pandemic. In contrast, GSK, Merck and Sanofi have seen stock slides in the range of 13% to 30%.
GSK and Sanofi
While in 2018, GlaxoSmithKline noted in a press release that the joint venture with Pfizer would enable it to increase its focus on vaccines, the company struggled in 2020 to stand up a COVID-19 vaccine business. In December, GSK and GlaxoSmithKline confirmed a delay in their adjuvanted recombinant protein-based COVID-19 vaccine owing to an inadequate immune response in older adults in a Phase 1/2 trial.
Sanofi has since agreed with Pfizer and BioNTech to support the manufacturing of their vaccine.
GSK and Sanofi are continuing to work on a COVID-19 vaccine candidate. GSK is also taking a page out of Pfizer’s playbook — partnering with upstart German biotech to develop an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine.
After scrapping its own COVID-19 vaccine development efforts, Merck has agreed to support Johnson & Johnson vaccine production.
Merck is also working to commercialize a COVID-19 biological therapeutic known as CD24Fc that it acquired from OncoImmune.