Aurobindo's plan to take on Pfizer's Prevnar gathers momentum

Indian drugmaker Aurobindo is planning its first vaccine launch in 2018, and has the multibillion dollar pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV) market firmly in its sights.

Aurobindo's just-published annual report reveals it has completed a pilot plant that is pushing out vaccine material for clinical trials, and is currently working on the production capacity to support the first commercial launches. 

"The plans are to create infrastructure for 50 million dosages per annum, with the first phase launch being targeted for 25 million doses," said Aurobindo, which is among the top five listed pharma companies in India.

If successful, Aurobindo will enter a market dominated by Pfizer's Prevnar PCV franchise, which brought in $2.76 billion in the first 6 months of the year. At the moment Prevnar's only competition comes from GlaxoSmithKline's Synflorix vaccine, which brought in £228 million ($295 million) in the same period.

Sales of Pfizer's flagship vaccine were actually down slightly on the same period of 2015, suffering from comparison with strong demand last year for a new version of the product--Prevnar 13--with broader coverage against Streptococcus pneumoniae serotypes than both Prevnar and Synflorix.

Aurobindo entered the vaccines business via a joint venture with Tergene Biotech that was set up last year and, according to the partners, will make use of a quicker, cheaper vaccine manufacturing platform that could allow them to undercut the rival products.

PCV is the lead candidate in the partnership but the intention is to develop a "sizeable vaccines portfolio," according to Aurobindo, which holds a majority stake in the JV. The company did not respond to a request for comment on its vaccine plans.

Meanwhile, Aurobindo is trying to diversify its business beyond generic dosage forms and active pharmaceutical ingredients (API) and into higher-value specialised medicines. That includes not only vaccines but also "oncology, hormones, enzymes, peptides, depot injections, inhalers, nasal and dermatology products," it says.

A new plant for oral cancer and hormonal therapy formulations has been completed and is now in operation, while a unit for producing injectable cancer drugs is due to come online later this year. The company says it intends to file for approval of more than 15 cancer drugs in the coming year.

- read Aurobindo’s latest annual report

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