JPM Day 4: Battered Emergent Solutions Looks Ahead, Vir and Thermo Fisher

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Emergent BioSolutions is coming into 2022 after a challenging year that saw the company lose a lucrative contract with the U.S. government following a production mishap that ruined millions of doses of Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine. 

But with a new year, the Maryland-based company sees new opportunities and a chance to rectify its tarnished reputation. The company started the year with a Phase I study of its universal influenza vaccine candidate. 

The investigational vaccine candidate includes multiple components that are intended to induce broad and supra-seasonal immunity against influenza A viruses. According to Emergent, the universal influenza vaccine candidate is based on a nanoparticle vaccine that self-assembles during production. That then displays a cross-reactive hemagglutinin (HA) antigen for influenza virus A groups 1 and 2. 

In its presentation at the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference Thursday, Emergent pointed to several long-term strategies that include supporting product requirements for the U.S. National Stockpile and supporting clinical needs for U.S. health agencies. 

The company is anticipating progress in its pipeline across the R&D portfolio with advancements of several early-stage programs in 2022. The company expects the completion of its Biologics License Application filing for AV7909, Emergent's next generation anthrax vaccine candidate.

"This past year we celebrated wins across the business and overcame our share of challenges, which have made our organization stronger," Robert G. Kramer, president and chief executive officer of Emergent BioSolutions said in a statement. "We are confident in our core business and our growth potential, driven by quality manufacturing, a broad R&D portfolio, diverse M&A opportunities, and most importantly, our talented workforce."

Vir Biotechnology Launches Antibody Research Initiative

Vir Biotechnology announced an expansion of its partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to develop broadly neutralizing antibodies designed to provide a "vaccinal effect" for the treatment of HIV and prevention of malaria.

This new initiative will include a clinical proof-of-concept trial designed to assess the potential impact of broadly neutralizing antibodies designed to inhibit viral replication and spread in people infected with HIV. It will also evaluate the ability of the antibodies to institute a vaccine-like effect that could be applicable to durable antiretroviral therapy (ART)-free suppression of HIV.

The technology could also have implications beyond HIV. Vir Biotechnology intends to assess the potential role of this technology in preventing malaria.

Vir is already conducting similar vaccinal antibody work in COVID-19, as well as hepatitis B and influenza A. 

"We look forward to applying the lessons learned thus far in COVID-19, chronic hepatitis B virus infection and influenza to advance our efforts toward curing HIV and preventing malaria," George Scangos, CEO of Vir Biotechnology, said in a statement

Thermo Fisher Scientific Roars into 2022 on M&A Gains

Thermo Fisher Scientific came into 2022 with a number of recent acquisitions that are expected to give the company an even strong position this year. CEO Marc Casper said the acquisitions, including its most recent gain, PreproTech and PPD, Inc., are expected to be strong drivers for the company in the future. Casper noted that the acquisitions allow Thermo Fisher to offer new opportunities and services to their customers, and the company's technologies enable it to reduce the time and cost of bringing innovative therapies to the market.

"We are excited about 2022. We are well positioned to continue the great momentum and deliver another spectacular year, and we will provide all the details on our earnings call at the beginning of February," Casper said during the company's presentation.

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