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Pfizer’s posts $4.9B 1Q profit as vaccine strategy pays off

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Pfizer's posts $4.9B 1Q profit as vaccine strategy pays off

Selling vaccines during a pandemic has boosted Pfizer’s bottom line and proven that a strategy it embarked upon over a decade ago is now paying off handsomely.

The New York-based pharmaceutical giant reported Tuesday that it earned $4.9 billion in the first three months of the year and it dramatically raised its profit forecast for all of 2021 thanks to strong demand for its COVID-19 vaccine. The company, along with its German partner BioNTech, anticipate strong revenue from the vaccine and booster shots for the next three years.

Once viewed as a marketing machine for blockbuster treatments such as Viagra and Lipitor, Pfizer has transformed itself into a powerhouse for delivering drugs that treat cancer, rare diseases — and vaccines.

Pfizer on Tuesday almost doubled its sales projections for the COVID-19 vaccine this year, from $15 billion to roughly $26 billion. The partners expect to be able to deliver about 2.5 billion vaccine doses this year, including 300 million doses for the U.S., and already are prepping for what could become annual booster shots.

Pfizer got into the low-profile, low-profit vaccine field in 2009 when it acquired Wyeth and its then-experimental pneumococcal vaccine. That vaccine, Prevnar, which protects against ear, bloodstream and other pneumococcal infections, was approved by the U.S. the following year. It became the world’s most lucrative vaccine with annual sales of about $5 billion — once unheard of.

“Investors were skeptical of the Wyeth acquisition because vaccines were a sleepy area with lots of risk and rarely enough profit to justify spending money on them. Pfizer proved them wrong,” said Erik Gordon, a business professor at the University of Michigan.

Pfizer began developing more vaccines and building up expertise. Then in 2018 it began a partnership with BioNTech focused on creating a flu vaccine with a then-new technology called mRNA for short. This vaccine type uses genetic material rather than an inactivated virus to teach the immune system to produce antibodies if the real virus infects someone.

But while the flu vaccine was still in testing, the coronavirus hit and the companies turned on a dime to use the technology for a vaccine against it. Their vaccine has proven to be more than 90% effective and has rapidly won emergency approval in country after country while avoiding the manufacturing delays and safety questions stinging some rivals.

“Partnering with BioNTech was a stroke of genius or of good luck,” Gordon said.

Now the partners are testing a potential booster shot, and they continue to test the two-dose shot in new patient groups, including pregnant women, 12- through 15-year-olds and children from six months to 11 years old. They’re also working on new vaccines formulations with a longer shelf life and less stringent requirements for deep freezing.

Pfizer also is testing both a pill and a different drug that’s injected as COVID-19 treatments.

Pfizer, which splits vaccine costs and profit with BioNTech, reported $3.46 billion in first-quarter sales in all but three countries; BioNTech will report the remaining revenue on May 10.

Some patient advocacy and consumer groups now accuse COVID-19 vaccine makers of profiteering as they’ve only pledged to stick to nonprofit prices until the pandemic emergency ends. Some want patents suspended to enable poor countries to get cheaper vaccines sooner.

On a conference call Tuesday, Pfizer noted its three price tiers for the vaccine, depending on each country’s financial situation. In the U.S., Pfizer charges $19.50 for each dose, far below what Prevnar and many other vaccines cost here.

Pfizer reported quarterly net income of $4.88 billion, or 86 cents per share, on Tuesday. That was up from $3.36 billion, or 60 cents per share, in the same period last year, when the global coronavirus pandemic began triggering lockdowns, and doctor visits, diagnostic tests and new prescriptions for other medicines dropped significantly.

Adjusted earnings jumped 48% to $5.26 billion, or 93 cents per share, far above the 79 cents Wall Street was expecting. Revenue was $14.58 billion, up 45% and also well above forecasts of $13.49 billion.

Sales of cancer drugs jumped 18% in the quarter and sales of medicines administered in hospitals rebounded 11% as patients got treatments delayed by hesitance to go to hospitals swamped with COVID-19 patients. Sales of clot preventer Eliquis jumped 26% to $1.64 billion.

Pfizer now expects full-year earnings in the range of $3.55 to $3.65 per share, up from $3.10 to $3.20 per share in February, and revenue in the range of $70.5 billion to $72.5 billion, up from $59.4 billion to $61.4 billion in the February forecast.


By LINDA A. JOHNSON AP Medical Writer

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MedTech

Vista Equity invests $300 million in telehealth software firm TigerConnect- sources

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Healthcare communications software provider TigerConnect has raised $300 million in growth investment from private equity firm Vista Equity Partners, sources familiar with the matter told Reuters on Monday.

The valuation of TigerConnect wasn’t known. It last raised $45 million at a valuation of $370 million in September 2020, according to PitchBook data, counting HealthQuest Capital and New Leaf Ventures as its backers. Some of the early investors have exited through Vista’s investment, one of the sources said.

Santa Monica, California-based TigerConnect delivers cloud-based clinical communication and collaboration solutions, including telehealth, to over 7,000 healthcare organizations and 700,000 caregivers.

In an interview, Brad Brooks, TigerConnect’s co-founder and chief executive confirmed the partnership with Vista, but declined to comment on the amount or valuation.

He said the company plans to use the proceeds to invest in its product to meet the growing need for clinical collaborations, as well as looking for acquisition opportunities.

The number of users on TigerConnect’s platform more than doubled during the past year as hospitals try to improve efficiency and the experience for patients during the pandemic, Brooks added.

“There had really been a dramatic lack of efforts around clinical workflow communication. We’re almost like a Slack for healthcare, putting in a common communication network so that everyone can reach everyone,” said Brooks.

The company, founded in 2010, sells subscription-based software solutions, including collaboration, communication, scheduling and patient engagement. It also plans to utilize AI and machine learning technology to provide smart solutions based on the platform data.

Vista has over $86 billion in assets under management and specializes in investing in enterprise software, data and technology companies. Last week, it invested an undisclosed amount in BlueConic, a Boston-based customer data platform.

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MedTech

AstraZeneca booster shot is effective against Omicron variant

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A study from an Oxford University lab published on Thursday revealed that a three-dose course of AstraZeneca booster shot is efficient in controlling the fast spread of the Omicron variant.

The Pharmaceutical company said in its statement that the results – while they have yet to be released in a peer-reviewed medical journal – are relatively identical to those of its rivals, including Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna. They also uncovered that their booster vaccines effectively fight the latest Coronavirus variant.

After receiving the third dose of AstraZeneca, the study highlighted that the shot had a neutralizing effect against the virus, which had an almost identical result to the two shots against its previous variant, Delta.

“As we better understand Omicron, we believe we will find T-cell response provides durable protection against severe disease and hospitalizations,” the head of AstraZeneca’s biopharmaceutical R&D, Mene Pangalos, said when referring to a significant element of the immune system that fights infection.

After taking the Vaxzervria – the third booster shot – antibody levels marked a much higher rate than antibodies in patients who had already caught the virus and naturally regained health, the Anglo-Swedish drugmaker said.

On Tuesday, the pharmaceutical firm announced that it is already working with its partner, Oxford University, to develop a vaccine exclusively directed towards fighting the Omicron variant, mirroring other MedTech companies’ attempts.

The university’s study incorporated 41 samples from individuals who had already taken the first two shots of AstraZeneca and others who took the booster one. The lab examined and analyzed blood samples from people infected with the virus and others vaccinated with the two dozes, the third booster shot, and finally, those who had already caught one of the coronavirus variants.

It is worth mentioning that AstraZeneca stated that while the Oxford University lab results support its booster shot, the study was completely independent of researchers who had previously joint efforts with the London-based firm on the vaccine.

The world is looking to halt back from the detrimental effect the pandemic is spreading, with governments and scientists seeking to heighten fortifications in their health sectors against the Omicron.

Even since its emergence on the scene, the latest COVID-19 variant proved to be one of the most dominant variants to date. Governments are worried it might become globally spread after the holidays if they fail to curb the infections rate.

Earlier this month, the UK endorsed third shots after discovering that boosters have a vital role in restoring protection against other diseases triggered by the Omicron. 

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MedTech

Moderna, unfazed by Omicron, prepares for 2022 vaccination campaign

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Moderna, unfazed by Omicron, prepares for the 2022 vaccination campaign

Covid-19 vaccine-making veteran Moderna seems unfazed by the emergence of the Omicron variant, saying that they can begin work on developing a booster short within a couple of weeks, according to Chief Executive Stephane Bancel.

“It only needs minor adjustments for Omicron, I don’t expect any problems,” said Bancel in an interview with the Swiss newspaper TagesAnzeiger.

Though hoping to begin clinical trials in early 2022, for the time being, they will be relying on the booster dose of their mRNA-1273 vaccine to counter the fast-spreading coronavirus variant. 

The company is now awaiting vital information on the new variant to begin vaccine development, which could take up to one or two weeks.

Bancel says that it will take another few months to produce 500 million doses after all the regulatory requirements have been met, citing that their capabilities and experience as a company today have increased compared to one year ago.

In 2021, Moderna managed to create around 700 million to 800 million vaccine doses. In 2022, they expect to escalate production capacity from 100 million doses per month to 150 million per month. 

Deals were also made with Swiss-based drug manufacturer Lonza to boost production further and plan to fire up their factory lines in the first quarter of 2022.

The company is currently discussing a future ‘vaccine subscription’ service with Switzerland that works to ensure a steady supply. This move helps improve ties with the country, which Moderna is keen to proceed with after signing parliamentary agreements with Canada and Australia.

“We have a number of new vaccines in development, for example against influenza or against the RS virus, which causes a respiratory disease that is fatal in the elderly and young children,” Bancel added.

“We can combine these three mRNA vaccines into one dose and propose to governments to secure supplies for a certain amount for several years and then invest in a production facility in that country,” he added.

With this, the company can designate certain countries as having priority should another pandemic occur in the future.

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