Pfizer Says Its Covid Vaccine Is Just the First in a New Wave of Preventives

 barrons.com  09/16/2020 13:42:51   Bill Alpert

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A 44,000-patient trial of the Covid-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech remains on track to deliver results by late October, said Pfizer in a Tuesday afternoon presentation.

The drug giant released new data showing that the vaccine succeeded in eliciting high levels of protective antibodies, with only moderate unpleasant side effects.

Pfizers vaccine update was the climax of two days of online talks showing off a product pipeline the company says could add $20 billion in new annual revenue. Vaccine products brought in $6.5 billion of last years $41.6 billion in sales. A half-dozen new vaccines will launch in the next five years. Pfizer (ticker: PFE) expects those new products and others will be generating three-fourths of its vaccine revenues in 2028and protecting 800 million people.

And the Covid product isnt even counted in those forecasts.

The technology used by Pfizer and BioNTech (BNTX) for their Covid vaccine is a new approach with advantages over traditional vaccines, said Pfizers research chief Mikael Dolsten. Instead of injecting defused versions of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, the new vaccine consists of bits of messenger-RNA genetic code that tells our cells to spit out proteins that then trigger an immune response to the coronavirus. The same approach is being used by Moderna (MRNA).

Messenger-RNA vaccines arent infectious and can be followed by booster shots, if needed, because the immune system doesnt make antibodies to the vaccine itself. If the SARS-CoV-2 virus mutates in the future, said Dolsten, then new messenger-RNA code can be created pretty quickly.

Pfizer will be able to deliver 100 million doses of the Covid vaccine this year, if approved, and another 1.3 billion in 2021. Governments have already ordered 450 million doses, with options for 600 million more.

After the first wave of pandemic vaccination, Pfizer expects to have an improved version of the Covid vaccine for 2022. It also plans a messenger-RNA vaccine for influenza that will have broader and longer-lasting effectiveness than the traditional shot.

As of Monday, Pfizer says, 12,000 participants in its Phase 3 Covid trial had gotten the second of two shots. While a conclusive readout from the Covid trial wont arrive for a month, some new data were reviewed on Tuesday by the research head of Pfizers vaccine group, Kathrin Jansen.

Tolerability data from the current Phase 3 trial showed only modest unpleasant side effects like headache and muscle sorenesseven among older participants.

As for effectiveness, after two shots the people in the Phase 1 trial enjoyed levels of neutralizing antibodies that were even higher than those of patients who had recovered from Covid-19. Will those antibodies prevent infection? Only the huge Phase 3 study will tell, but Jansen showed new data from animal studies, in which vaccinated monkeys exposed to the virus didnt get infected.

A not-yet-answered question is how long antibody levels will remain high after vaccination. An encouraging sign, said Jansen, is that the immune systems patrolling T-cells also respond strongly to the vaccine. Those cells may remain vigilant for the coronavirus, even after antibody levels subside.

Vaccine group head Angela Wang said Pfizer is ironing out its methods fro distributing a Covid-19 vaccine. Vials can be held in cold storage for six months and kept for five days in a refrigerator at the point of use.

Write to Bill Alpert at william.alpert@barrons.com

A 44,000-patient trial of the Covid-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech remains on track to deliver results by late October, said Pfizer in a Tuesday afternoon presentation.

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