Pfizer offers up talents, tools and manufacturing capabilities in call for wide COVID-19 collabs

Many organizations and companies in the biopharma world have formed alliances to develop drugs and vaccines against the novel coronavirus amid a global pandemic. Now Pfizer, on top of its own bilateral team-up, is offering up its resources for wider use.

The New York pharma is openly sharing its drug development talents, tools and expertise, as well as its manufacturing capabilities, with any companies working on promising anti-COVID-19 candidates—and it's calling on the entire biopharma industry to do the same.

To hear Pfizer chief Albert Bourla tell it, the COVID-19 pandemic isn’t a task any one player can tackle on its own.

“Pfizer calls on all members of the innovation ecosystem—from large pharmaceutical companies to the smallest of biotech companies, from government agencies to academic institutions—to commit to work together in addressing this dire crisis,” Bourla said in a statement. “With our combined efforts we know that there is no health challenge that we cannot overcome.”

We are committed to work as one team across the industry to harness our scientific expertise, technical skills and manufacturing capabilities to combat this evolving crisis,” he said in a statement on Friday.

One problem the drugmaker sees? Many companies are separately working on assays, viral screening and preclinical models to test their drug candidates and vaccines, meaning there's some repetitive work that can be saved. So Pfizer is making tools it has developed available on an open-source platform and promises to share the data and learnings in real time as they come across.

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Many small firms are among those screening drug libraries or existing therapies for activity against SARS-CoV-19, the virus that causes COVID-19. Unlike a Big Pharma the size of Pfizer, these young biotechs may not be familiar with the path they'll need to take as they get to later stages of drug development, or how to deal with the regulatory process.

“Pfizer is committed to sharing our clinical development and regulatory expertise to support the most promising candidates these companies bring forward,” the company said.

A critical element of the drug R&D know-how lies in human capital. Pfizer has created “a SWAT team” with experts from different disciplines and segments dedicated to addressing the current pandemic.

To get any potential drugs or vaccines to the world as soon as possible after approval, Pfizer will also help produce them at its facilities. “Pfizer is committed to using any excess manufacturing capacity and to potentially shifting production” when needed, the company said.

Pfizer’s long been ranking among the top three pharma companies by worldwide sales, with 2019 revenues of $51.75 billion. It’s also the seller of the world’s best-selling vaccine, Prevnar 13, for the prevention of infection by pneumococcal bacteria.

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The company’s now developing its own potential antiviral therapies and is also in advanced talks with Germany’s BioNTech over ex-China development of an mRNA coronavirus vaccine. The prophylactic candidate, dubbed BNT162, has just been licensed to China’s Fosun Pharma in that country. A global clinical study in Europe, the U.S. and China is being planned.

Pfizer’s efforts will also not stop with this outbreak. After seeing repeated failures from the global community to contain deadly pathogens in their infancy, Pfizer is now looking into building a framework for similar health threats in the future. It’s reaching out to U.S. government agencies, including the NIH, to “build a cross-industry rapid response team of scientists, clinicians and technicians able to move into action immediately when future epidemics surface.”

Governments, charities and several leading biopharma companies have already pitched in on the formation of global outbreak preparedness group, called Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI). Part of that public-private alliance includes funding vaccine platforms that can be rapidly mobilized for developing candidates against a rising pathogen.

The organization has provided millions of dollars in grants to Inovio’s DNA vaccine and Moderna’s mRNA candidate amid the ongoing crisis.