Meriden, CT’s Protein Sciences has won what could become a major lifeline as it looks to grow slow sales for its Flublok influenza vaccine. The biotech reported that the HHS’ BARDA unit signed off on a contract potentially worth $610 million for national pandemic influenza preparedness.
Running through 2021, the contract tasks Protein Sciences with getting “starting materials” ready that could “shave a month or more off the time” for a response in the event the biotech needs to supply vaccines during a pandemic, according to a statement. It’s unlikely the contract’s full $610 million value would be realized, the Hartford Courant reported, but the deal brings “stability … while we are building the flu business,” CEO Manon Cox said to the publication.
The contract’s first tranche is worth $2 million, according to the newspaper. But that value could go way up if Protein Sciences needs to supply vaccines during a pandemic or a strain mismatch.
Protein Sciences’ cell culture flu vaccines are quicker to produce than traditional flu vaccines, making them the only government-recognized products capable of responding to a pandemic, according to the company. But so far, Flublok hasn’t fared as well as hoped on the market.
After selling 250,000 doses last year, the biotech hopes to bring that number to 900,000, according to the Courant. The problem: states have ordered only 2,500 doses, the newspaper reported, in addition to a 300,000-dose order from the CDC.
It competes against much larger players in the flu vaccine space like Sanofi, GlaxoSmithKline, and AstraZeneca, as well as new entrant Seqirus.
Apart from its influenza vaccines, Protein Sciences is working in preclinical stages on vaccines against Zika and SARS. In April, the company joined with partners in Argentina to develop a Zika vaccine, joining a slew of other companies and organizations racing to test various approaches against the virus. Protein Sciences at the time said it’s working with a “plug-and-play” platform that could allow it to jump certain development obstacles.
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