JPM Kicked Off with Fresh News from Pfizer, BMS, Illumina and Novavax

JP Morgan_Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The 2022 virtual J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference got off to a roaring start Monday with deal announcements and plans to drive biopharma companies through the coming year. BioSpace takes a look at some of yesterday's presentations.

Pfizer Doubles Down on Booster Shots, mRNA

With the continuing threat of COVID-19 driven by the Delta and Omicron variants, Pfizer Chief Executive Officer Albert Bourla said that increased vaccination with booster shots would be a key tool to mitigate serious infection. Bourla admitted that the Omicron variant is a more challenging target and noted that two doses of the vaccine developed by the company and BioNTech are not enough. The third booster dose is proving to provide "quite good protection against deaths and decent protection against hospitalization," Bourla said during his company's presentation. But, noted that the question is how long does the protection from the third dose last? A fourth dose is already being recommended to immunocompromised patients and the elderly in some areas. 

Bourla noted that the company has established a strong manufacturing supply that can provide the necessary doses of the vaccine. Also, the company's manufacturing capabilities will be able to churn out millions of doses of Paxlovid, the company's antiviral pill. Pfizer will be able to generate 120 million treatment regimens of Paxlovid, which is 3.6 billion tablets.  

As Pfizer moves deeper into 2022, mRNA technology will play an increasingly important role. On Monday, the company struck several deals that bolster the programs that use the technology. 

"We truly believe that mRNA is a game-changer technology. It's not the Holy Grail. Not everything will happen because of mRNA. But clearly, it is a very powerful technology, and we have seen just scratching the surface of it. So we decided that we are going in because we have developed also the expertise and the infrastructure that allow us to be a leading player," Bourla said. 

Bristol Myers Squibb Banks on New Products

Pharma giant Bristol Myers Squibb Company will diversify its product portfolio in the coming year. BMS CEO Giovanni Carforio said the company plans to launch breakthrough new medicines and advance a robust product pipeline that will deliver sustained growth. 

Carforio pointed to several new BMS products that have significant growth potential. The company has six recently-launched products, Abecma (idecabtagene vicleucel), Breyanzi (lisocabtagene maraleucel), Inrebic (fedratinib), Onureg (azacytidine), Reblozyl (luspatercept-aamt) and Zeposia (ozanimod). So far this year, BMS has three launches expected (relatimab and nivolumab fixed dose combinationmavacamten, deucravacitinib). In all, BMS believes the portfolio of new and expected products has the potential to generate $10 to $13 billion annually by 2025. 

"We are entering 2022 excited about the growth opportunities in our in-line brands and new product portfolio. With our strong financial position, we continue to invest in internal and external innovation to further enhance and diversify our pipeline, while delivering new medicines to patients with serious disease and creating long-term value for our shareholders," Carforio said in a statement. 

Novavax at a Turning Point

Maryland-based Novavax came into the conference with a bounce in its step as the company is poised to seek Emergency Use Authorization for its COVID-19 vaccine in the United States, as well as abroad. The company has already received authorization for the vaccine in several markets, including Europe, India, Indonesia and the Philippines. Within the next three months, the number of authorizations could include the U.S., the United Kingdom, Canada, Japan and others. Chief Executive Officer Stanley Erck said the company is at a major turning point.

"Over the past two years, we have built a company that is now a key player in the vaccines market. We have used our expertise with our validated and highly efficacious technology platform to make tremendous strides in delivering our protein-based COVID-19 vaccine to the world. Today, we have transitioned into a company that is poised to deliver our vaccines to all four corners of the world and we have expedited our progress in the last quarter of the year with broad authorizations and more to come," Erck said during his presentation Monday. 

In addition to its COVID-19 vaccine, Novavax continues to develop its COVID-NanoFlu combination vaccine candidate, a significant component of the company's pipeline. The company plans to announce data from a Phase I/II study in the first half of this year. A Phase II study that will include a NanoFlu only arm is expected later this year. 

Illumina Eyes Partnerships to be 2022 Drivers

Illumina CEO Francis deSouza expects the company to build on new partnerships throughout the coming year. During the company's presentation Monday, deSouza announced new partnerships that are expected to accelerate the development of precision diagnosis and treatment medicines for patients with advanced cancer. 

Among the partnerships that will push the company through the new year are: An agreement with Agendia to develop genome-based panel tests for cancer diagnosis; and a collaboration with Boehringer Ingelheim to identify which patients are best suited to the company's new medicines, based on the molecular profile of their cancer. To accelerate the adoption of genomics into clinical practice, 

Illumina also announced a collaboration with the leading health services innovation company OptumAnother newly-announced partnership is one with Nashville Biosciences, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Vanderbilt University Medical Center. That partnership will leverage Illumina's AI capabilities, genome interpretation, and scaled analytic infrastructure to support the identification of new genomic-based drug targets.

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