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10 Oct 2013

To Claim or Reclaim? Universal Influenza Vaccines Present Market Opportunity for Current and New Players Alike

The development of universal influenza vaccines is presenting an ideal opportunity for pharmaceutical manufacturers to enter into, or differentiate themselves within, a crowded marketplace, although they must first be prepared to handle the high R&D costs involved, says an analyst with research and consulting firm GlobalData.

Although the influenza vaccine sector has previously demonstrated a stagnant activity pipeline, a recent study proposes that medicine consisting of core viral proteins may elicit cellular responses that are protective against multiple strains of the virus.

Robert Wilson, GlobalData’s Healthcare Analyst covering Infectious Disease, believes that such vaccines could represent the “ultimate step” in a long-term trend towards expanded coverage, while allowing players both current and new to stake their claims in the vaccine market, which GlobalData estimates at $2.2 billion annually across the seven major markets (the US, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Japan and the UK).

He says: “The ability to protect against any strain of influenza would put universal vaccines in a strong position to capitalise on outbreaks of pandemic influenza, offering the potential to merge the seasonal and pandemic vaccine markets.

“However, scalable production technologies, such as cell culture-based methodologies, would be needed to produce vaccines quickly in response to outbreaks, and companies might therefore be required to increase their R&D investment to take full advantage of the opportunity that universal flu vaccines offer.”

Although Wilson believes that such significant costs will prove a major barrier to vaccine development, he suggests that companies must leverage public-private partnerships (PPPs) and government funding so as to reduce these expenses as much as possible.

He continues: "Universal flu vaccines do indeed present a significant risk for pharmaceutical manufacturers, because of the high costs involved, but they also offer extremely large rewards.

“For instance, as well as providing a chance for new companies to enter the sector without having to compete directly with established manufacturers, they also come with an anticipated premium price that will prove an attractive option for both current and future players looking to progress with R&D activity.”

In the meantime, Wilson believes that companies that have already innovated in quadrivalent vaccines are set to take advantage of their investment over the coming years; for example, GlobalData has estimated that Sanofi’s Fluzone QIV could earn as much as $375 million in 2014.

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