BioNTech raised its forecast for this year’s Covid-19 vaccine sales to €15.9 billion ($18.7bn) and said it is pushing forward plans to test its messenger RNA technology in cancer.
BioNTech and partner Pfizer signed contracts to deliver some 2.2 billion doses of the two-shot vaccine this year and more than 1 billion doses in 2022 and beyond, the Mainz, Germany-based company said on Monday. BioNTech had previously predicted €12.4bn in 2021 revenue from its only marketed product.
The Covid vaccine is on track to be one of the best-selling drugs of all time, with Pfizer saying last month it may generate $33.5bn in sales this year. That money is split between the partners and BioNTech also gets some revenue from direct sales. The windfall has given the German biotech ample cash to push forward the rest of its experimental pipeline – as well as raising the pressure to come up with another driver of sustainable growth.
BioNTech’s US depositary receipts rose as much as 12 per cent as of 11:40am in New York. They have more than quintupled in value this year. Pfizer gained 1 per cent and vaccine maker Moderna gained as much as 11 per cent.
Together with Pfizer, BioNTech will start human testing for an mRNA vaccine for influenza in the third quarter. The German company is also working on malaria, aiming to have a candidate it can test in people by the end of next year. Like the Covid shot, the flu and malaria inoculations will use mRNA technology to deliver a template for the body’s cells to make the non-infectious antigen, or virus trait, necessary to spur an immune response.
The technology is also being tested in cancer, in an aim to spur the immune system to fight off tumours. BioNTech has started six new patient trials this year – for a total of 15 experimental drugs in 18 trials – and said it plans to move two more potential therapies into human trials this year.
BioNTech will also seek to build out its pipeline using deals, chief executive Ugur Sahin said in a conference call with analysts. “We are at the moment on the one side accelerating and broadening our internal pipeline and, of course, we are interested also in complementing our pipeline.”
Covid revenue is fuelling the cancer trials. BioNTech’s second-quarter sales climbed from €41.7 million last year to €5.3bn this year, exceeding the expectations of analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.
Even as countries around the world struggle to complete the first wave of Covid immunisations, the potential need for booster shots may drive vaccine sales in coming years. BioNTech currently sees no need to change its vaccine for a booster to address virus variants, Mr Sahin said.
The partners expect to have capacity to make 4 billion doses of the vaccine next year, BioNTech said. Pfizer has said it would approach US regulators for authorisation of a third booster dose of its vaccine.
The partners have sought full approval in the US for the Covid vaccine, which was cleared via an emergency-use authorisation there late last year. They are also studying the shot’s safety and efficacy for children younger than age 12 and for pregnant women.