Vaccines were considered a low-profit product but the industry's attitude has shifted in recent years. The patent cliff and threat from generics, weakened pipelines and strong government support have all played a role in pharma's re-evaluation of the market.
GBI Research reports that companies in the vaccine sector will be competing for a slice of a $52bn market by 2016. The report valued the market in 2009 at $24bn and predicts it will have a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 11.5 per cent until 2016.
Underpinning growth is increased investment in R&D following the success of premium priced products, such as Gardasil (human papillomavirus (HPV)), Cervarix (human papillomavirus) and Prevnar (pneumococcal conjugate), which became the first blockbuster vaccine.
Financial support of R&D is predicted to lead to the launch of novel vaccines. GBI states that companies are focusing on product differentiation to ensure the success of their innovative vaccines. A number of vaccines in development fit this model.
In disease sectors served by multiple vaccines companies are using new technologies to increase prices and boost profits. Pharma is also looking to maximise return from other vaccines through indication expansion.
For instance, Prevnar is being developed to be effective against additional serogroups and researchers are working to increase the number of HPV strains Gardasil is approved to protect against. GBI expects pharma “to use lifecycle management strategies to full effect”.
Away from the big pharma players there are a number of smaller companies with novel vaccine technologies and promising candidates. Many of these firms lack the financial strength to bring a product to market and consequently are expected to enter into licensing and alliance agreements.