The race is on for a next-generation pneumococcal vaccine. Merck has already pushed its 15-valent candidate into phase 3, and on Thursday, Pfizer CFO Frank D’Amelio said his company is “all in” on reaching the market as soon as possible with its candidate.
At a Morgan Stanley healthcare conference Thursday, D’Amelio said after Pfizer closed its internal neuroscience program earlier this year, the company shifted resources to accelerate development for its 20-valent pneumococcal vaccine candidate. Pfizer believes it can enter the market at a competitive timeframe to Merck and its next-generation shot, D’Amelio said. Pfizer already markets pneumococcal vaccine Prevnar 13, the world’s bestselling vaccine.
On market entry timing, he said "if we are close, we think the strength of the current franchise,” plus additional protection, will allow Pfizer to retain market share and “keep the franchise growing very nicely."
Pfizer recently completed a proof-of-concept study for its vaccine and “will start spending a bunch of money” to support its 20-valent candidate, the CFO said. Phase 2 data showed the vaccine can induce immune responses to all 20 pneumococcal serotypes, and that it was safe and well tolerated. The company is planning a phase 3 testing program.
Merck is already in phase 3 with its vaccine. In one late-stage study, Merck is testing its candidate head-to-head against Prevnar 13.
Last year, Pfizer’s Prevnar franchise generated $5.6 billion around the world, a 2% decline from 2016. Sales for the shot have flattened after fast growth in recent years, but D’Amelio said Pfizer believes it can still grow the franchise going forward due to opportunities outside of the U.S.