Pfizer is taking on significant risk in a race to provide the world with a coronavirus vaccine. Pfizer is outsourcing the production of its own branded medicines to contract manufacturers such as Catalent to make room for the production of, BNT162, an experimental SARS-CoV-2 vaccine the big pharma is developing in partnership with BioNTech.
Investing in risk
The steps Pfizer is taking to ramp up the production of an experimental vaccine candidate that hasn’t produced any clinical trial data yet are an extremely unusual gamble. Having millions of doses of BNT162 ready to ship out the moment it’s potentially approved, though, could make it all worthwhile.
BioNTech is supplying investigators with its vaccine candidates, which recently began clinical trials in the U.S., but Pfizer will be responsible for the bulk of manufacturing if it’s proven effective at preventing transmission of the virus responsible for COVID-19.
At the moment, BNT162 is actually a program that will test four similar vaccines in early clinical-stage testing before settling on a single candidate for later development stages. Instead of paying Catalent to manufacture millions of doses of an experimental vaccine candidate that might never leave the warehouse, Pfizer will handle BNT162 production in its own facilities.
Pfizer says it will cost up to $150 million to prepare its facilities to produce BNT162. By freeing up some of its largest facilities, though, the company thinks it could distribute up to 20 million coronavirus vaccine doses before the end of 2020.