2017 sales: $1.0 billion
2016 sales: $753 million
Vaccine business led by: Gordon Naylor
Since it was born in 2015, when Australia’s CSL acquired Novartis’ flu vaccines, Seqirus has become the world’s second-largest flu shot company behind Sanofi. And it boasts a flu shot that isn’t made with eggs, a production process whose efficacy has been called into question lately.
That’s Flucelvax Quadrivalent, the first four-strain seasonal flu shot derived from cell cultures. Last flu season, Seqirus successfully produced the cell-based shot at commercial scale using a candidate vaccine virus (CVV) grown in cells. For the second half of 2017, when the Northern Hemisphere entered the flu season, the quadrivalent vaccine’s revenue reached $308 million, a fivefold increase year over year.
The company also sells egg-based flu shots, including Fluad, a shot designed for seniors that uses a proprietary Novartis adjuvant called MF59. Fluad sales grew 130% year over year to $129 million.
Its unadjuvanted three-strain flu vaccines fell 47% to $171 million, however, and maybe that’s why Seqirus intends to focus on just a few products like Flucelvax and Fluad going forward, as CSL CEO Paul Perreault told FiercePharma during an interview at the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference in January.
The company also sees an opportunity to capitalize on Flucelvax’s egg-free production process. Recent studies have blamed less effective flu vaccines on egg-based manufacturing. Because the H3N2 flu viruses mutate when cultured in eggs, the virus in the final product could look different from the circulating strain, scientists argue.
On the other hand, the cell culture process got a shoutout from FDA chief Scott Gottlieb, M.D., recently; during the particularly severe flu season in 2017-2018, cell-based flu shots were 20% more effective than egg-based ones, Gottlieb said.
Seqirus plans to attack the flu virus more broadly, too. It’s looking to use cell-derived CVV technology to produce other vaccine strains at its Holly Springs, North Carolina, site, which happens to be designated by the HHS’ Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority as one of four centers in the U.S. to help combat pandemic threats.
Also contracted by the U.K. government for pandemic preparedness, Seqirus recently invested £40 million in its site in Liverpool to build a fill-finish operation so that it doesn’t have to rely on contractors. That was right before NHS England decided Fluad—made at the Liverpool site—should be recommended for people 75 and older starting with the coming season.
Though most of its revenue comes from its flu shots, Seqirus also sells a suite of in-licensed vaccines and drugs in Oceania. All told, the company’s vaccines brought in $1 billion last year.