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Pfizer execs see blockbuster opportunities throughout vaccine pipeline, beyond pneumonia and COVID-19

Pfizer has made billions on its best-selling vaccine, Prevnar 13, but it’s meanwhile advancing several phase 3 candidates to follow that product and bolster its presence in the field, execs said at a virtual investor event Monday. 

Pfizer’s Prevnar 13 follow-up, a 20-strain pneumococcal shot, is set for an FDA filing later this year, with a possible approval in the middle of 2021, SVB Leerink analysts wrote in a note to clients summarizing the event. The follow-up shot is set to compete with Merck & Co., which just touted more phase 3 data and is also planning a submission in 2020. 

Considering that expected rivalry, Pfizer “did not confirm their expectations for growth of the Prevnar franchise” at Monday’s event, the analysts wrote. “Instead they suggested that Prevnar 20 was likely to mainly replace and maintain total PCV sales.” Prevnar 13 generated $5.85 billion last year, making it the world’s bestselling vaccine. 

That’s not to say Pfizer doesn’t expect growth in vaccines, though. Aside from the 20-valent pneumococcal program, Pfizer has a trio of other late-stage efforts set to deliver “significant revenue growth” to 2028, the analysts said, summarizing exec remarks. Those are a pentavalent combination meningococcal vaccine, a C. difficile shot and a maternal vaccine against respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). 

At Monday’s event, Pfizer execs provided revenue “guideposts” around the late-stage programs that seemed to suggest the trio could match Prevnar’s $6 billion in sales down the line, the analysts said, adding that the forecast “seems optimistic.” 

Still, execs did stress the unmet need for its forthcoming vaccines. The 20-valent vaccine would offer broader protection than Prevnar 13 and Merck’s 15-valent candidate both, the company said. In C. diff, a vaccine could prevent significant morbidity and cut healthcare costs in the U.S. and around the world.  

As for the company’s five-strain meningococcal vaccine, current shots are split between Men ACWY and Men B. That’s led to poor compliance and low sales because the existing vaccines are “poorly understood by consumers and physicians,” the SVB Leerink analysts wrote. 

Pfizer believes “the combined vaccine will fix this issue, thus allowing increased compliance in older children and young adults,” the analysts wrote, summarizing executive comments. GlaxoSmithKline is also advancing a late-stage Men ABCWY vaccine.

And in RSV, a field that has delivered numerous setbacks, Pfizer is exploring a maternal immunization approach. The company hopes its vaccine can protect infants for several months, or for their “critical first RSV season,” the analysts wrote. 

Of course, Pfizer is also advancing a leading COVID-19 shot in partnership with BioNTech. The partners have inked large supply deals and stand to earn a significant financial windfall if the program succeeds. CEO Albert Bourla has predicted early phase 3 data by the end of October.