GSK's Slaoui sees 'major' vaccine market disruption for Merck as shingles candidate progresses

SAN FRANCISCO--Look out, Merck & Co.: GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) expects its shingles candidate, Shingrix, to be a "major market disrupter" when it wins approval.

GSK's Moncef Slaoui

That's the word from company vaccine head Moncef Slaoui, who spoke with FiercePharmaMarketing during the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference. When people realize that shingles is a threat that's built inside you and stays with you for all your life, "it's kind of freaky," he said. "And if you know that there is a vaccine that's 97% effective, you will want that. I don't want a 50% effective vaccine."

So far, Shingrix has impressed in the clinic, posting 97.2% overall efficacy compared with placebo in a Phase III trial. But its success in older adults is what may help it steal share from Merck's ($MRK) Zostavax, analysts have said; in those over 70 years of age, Shingrix has demonstrated 90% efficacy, where the efficacy of Merck's jab declines in older people.

The way Slaoui sees it, Shringrix's solid numbers in elderly adults--which GSK defines as those over age 50--will drive market share gains, but "also uptake of the vaccine, which today is quite limited in the older population."

And that's just the beginning. Shingrix owes its success in that population to its vaccine adjuvant, which is "able to rejuvenate, in a way, the immune response to the vaccine antigen." GSK hopes that by using the same formulation with other shots, "Shingrix can be the spearheading vaccine to a new generation of elderly vaccines where efficacy is in the 90s rather than in the 50s and 60s," he said.

Meanwhile, Glaxo is currently gearing up to submit regulatory filings for Shingrix in North America, Japan and the EU, expected for the second half of this year.

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