Valneva looking to buy small, overlooked vaccines from Big Pharma: CEO

Vaccine maker Valneva has some experience pumping up a Big Pharma also-ran, and now it's looking for more.

While it pushes forward with its R&D programs in chikungunya and Lyme disease—and growing sales within its own portfolio—the small company is scouting for products that might be overlooked at a vaccine giant but could grow with some additional attention, Valneva CEO Thomas Lingelbach said in an interview at the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference last week.

Valneva plans to “grow the commercial side of our business not only organically but also strategically,” Lingelbach said. He noted that pharma companies are continuously updating their portfolios, and if the right product comes for sale, Valneva would try “very, very hard” to pick it up. The company already sells vaccines to protect against cholera and Japanese encephalitis. 

Such a vaccine would need to be overlooked at a large pharma company, fit with Valneva’s commercial or industrial footprint, and be in the right scale, Lingelbach said. His company couldn’t afford a product with hundreds of millions of euros in annual revenues, he said; Valneva is instead looking to grow its revenues by €60 million to €100 million annually with such acquisitions, either through one product or multiple products. 

The company has made the strategy work before. Valneva acquired its second commercial vaccine, cholera shot Dukoral, in a 2015 deal with Johnson & Johnson's Crucell. After that deal, Valneva was able to grow sales for the product that Lingelbach said was “a bit overlooked” at its prior company.  

RELATED: Valneva's Lyme vaccine—the only active candidate out there—moves to phase 2 

Meanwhile, on the R&D side at Valneva, the company is developing vaccines against chikungunya and Lyme disease. Its Lyme disease candidate is the only program in human trials; it entered a midstage study in December. Valneva’s chikungunya shot is in early-stage testing. The biotech is also working on preclinical programs that it could “inject” into its clinical pipeline after working on those shots, Lingelbach said.