BioNTech plots first wave of cancer launches in 2026 as COVID vaccine sales continue to disappoint

As BioNTech continues to endure a sharp decline in COVID-19 vaccine sales, the German mRNA specialist is looking ahead to the next leg of its commercial journey.

With plans to have at least 10 potentially registrational trials underway by the end of 2024, BioNTech is plotting the first wave of its market debut in oncology from 2026 onward, the company said in a presentation Monday. By 2030, the company expects to have garnered 10 approved indications in cancer.

To set the stage for those potential approvals and launches, BioNTech will spend the next several years scaling up its business for “commercial readiness in oncology,” the company’s chief financial officer, Jens Holstein, said in a statement in BioNTech’s first-quarter earnings release.

In March, the company appointed a new chief commercial officer, Annemarie Hanekamp, to succeed its current CMO and chief business officer, Sean Marett, on July 1. BioNTech has also appointed a general manager for the United States who has already “commenced building out commercial operations in the country," BioNTech explained in its release.

Following the sensational success and subsequent decline of its Pfizer-partnered COVID shot, BioNTech has positioned itself as a next-generation immunotherapy company with a heavy emphasis on cancer. In this field, it’s testing therapeutic approaches ranging from off-the-shelf mRNA candidates to bispecifics, antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs) and small molecules.

Though BioNTech is confident in the market potential of its experimental assets, the company—like every COVID-19 vaccine player—has watched its sales slip dramatically from the highs seen during the peak of the pandemic.

In 2024’s first quarter, BioNTech reported total revenues of 187.6 million euros (about $202 million)—a staggering 85% decrease from the 1.27 billion euros (roughly $1.4 billion) it generated over the same stretch in 2023. The company blamed the downturn on the lackluster sales landscape of the endemic COVID-19 vaccine market, which has become a common refrain with its commercial partner Pfizer, as well as the companies’ mRNA rival Moderna.

Alongside this meager sales haul, BioNTech recorded a net loss of 315.1 million euros over the first three months of 2024. For that same period in 2023, BioNTech posted a net profit of 502.2 million euros.

Still, the slow start to the year was largely to be expected, given the now-seasonal timing of COVID-19 inoculations. BioNTech expects to recognize around 90% of its full-year revenue in the final months of 2024, Holstein noted in the company's earnings release.

Meanwhile, BioNTech is working with its commercial partner Pfizer to launch a variant-adapted shot in the second half of the year, pending regulatory approval, the company’s chief strategy officer, Ryan Richardson, said on an analyst call Monday.

The companies are planning to launch that vaccine in “over 80 geographies worldwide,” with most regions outside the U.S. continuing to be served by government contracts, he said. BioNTech also expects new private markets to open up in places like the United Kingdom this year, Richardson noted.

For the full year, BioNTech is sticking by its revenue forecast of 2.5 billion euros ($2.7 billion) to 3.1 billion euros ($3.3 billion).