Pfizer talks up 'comprehensive' vaccines business

Though it can boast its ownership of the world's bestselling vaccine in Prevnar, Pfizer ($PFE) is not stopping there. On Tuesday, the New York City-based pharma unveiled details of its effort to build out its vaccines business by researching a range of conditions from birth until old age.

Pfizer vaccines R&D head Kathrin Jansen

In doing so, Pfizer R&D chief Dr. Mikael Dolsten, vaccines president Susan Silbermann and vaccines R&D head Kathrin Jansen outlined an upcoming cancer vaccine program, a maternal human cytomegalovirus vaccine candidate and a Prevnar 13 formulation for developing countries that doesn't require refrigeration.

First targeting prostate cancer as its key indication, Pfizer's cancer vaccine platform will enter into clinical trials late this year, Jansen said, adding that she's "very encouraged" by the results of preclinical work. The approach uses three to 6 distinct proteins that are highly expressed in prostate cancer delivered with a viral vector to trigger an immune response, though the method could be tailored for a "large number of important cancers."

Pfizer will be joining the likes of Bristol-Myers Squibb ($BMY) and Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ)--pharma peers which each recently inked $1 billion development deals--among many others in looking to cancer vaccines, a field that was last month projected to grow at a CAGR of 27.24% until 2019.

Through recent moves, Pfizer has increasingly attempted to lessen its vaccines dependence on the superstar pneumococcal disease blocker Prevnar, which raked in $4.29 billion in 2014 sales and is anticipated to grow to $5.83 billion in sales by 2020. Last month, the company picked up two meningitis vaccines from GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) for $130 million to market outside the U.S., building on two prior purchases in the previous 12 months. Last July, Pfizer announced the $635 million purchase of Baxter's ($BAX) marketed vaccines portfolio, and in January followed up with the purchase of Switzerland's RedVax for an undisclosed sum. Internal development candidates include a Staphylococcus aureus vaccine that recently entered a Phase IIb trial for elective surgical site infection and a Phase II Clostridium difficile jab.

Redvax's human cytomegalovirus candidate contains a component believed to be "critical" for the development of Pfizer's vaccine, Jansen said, and the company is "excited to have access to technology" that will assist in building a vaccine to protect infants growing in the womb from the virus.

However, Pfizer doesn't plan to neglect the "foundation" of its vaccines business in Prevnar 13. Execs said on Tuesday that multiple initiatives are underway to expand that vaccine's reach, including an acknowledgement from regulators earlier this summer that a single dose vial of Prevnar 13 could have a one-time "temperature excursion" of up to 40 degrees Celsius for 3 days for increased access to lower-income, "last mile" countries.

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