Nanotechnology-enabled mRNA vaccines are having a banner year in 2021. That much is clear. But making sense of the long-term prospects of the nascent market for mRNA therapeutics remains challenging.
But the sales of mRNA vaccines from mRNA vaccine leaders Pfizer and Moderna are on track to eclipse that figure. In February, Pfizer projected its COVID-19 vaccine sales for 2021 would be $15 billion. But additional orders for its vaccine, jointly developed with BioNTech, could boost that figure to at least $20 billion.
Moderna anticipates that its vaccine 2021 sales will hit $18.4 billion.
Drug companies are developing more than 150 mRNA-based candidates for a variety of therapeutic uses encompassing not just infectious diseases but areas such as genetic diseases and oncology, according to market research firm Roots Analysis.
One potential wildcard for the market, however, is the duration of protection that mRNA vaccines offer against the novel coronavirus.
At present, there is a dearth of human data on the subject. Transgenic mice injected with a single dose of mRNA vaccine had high levels of neutralizing antibodies for at least 6.5 months, according to a paper published in Nature.
Recipients of Moderna’s mRNA-1273 vaccine had a strong immune response 90 days after receiving the second dose.
Moderna itself believes the vaccine will provide immunity for at least one year.
While an array of mRNA-based therapeutics is now in development, COVID-19 vaccines will likely make up the lion’s share of the market for some time. If mRNA-based vaccines offer long-lasting protection against COVID-19, sales could drop off starting in 2022.
One factor that could influence the market as regions such as the U.S. and Europe have substantial rates of vaccine hesitancy is the potential for vaccine mandates. The travel industry could see a “soft mandate” for vaccination, according to Chad Nielsen, director of infection control at the University of Florida College of Medicine, in a call with UBS analysts. Travel guidelines encouraging vaccination could fuel demand for vaccines in general. Firmer mandates are likely in settings such as hospitals, cruise ships and possibly universities. Employers outside of healthcare are less likely to mandate vaccinations, Nielsen said.
As the pandemic wanes, however, mRNA vaccine producers may hike pricing. Pfizer exec Frank D’Amelio recently stated that the company may raise prices on its COVID-19 vaccine in a post-pandemic state.
Global Data projected that combined sales for Pfizer and Moderna mRNA vaccines would be approximately $5 billion in 2022, growing steadily thereafter.