Where's the Profit?
With biotechs in the vanguard of developing some interesting platform technologies and even novel vaccines, some companies are taking their products all the way to market but they need to exercise caution when doing this. “When biotechs are developing vaccines, manufacturing is often the last thing on their mind, yet improving output is often the differentiator between making a good profit or very little return on a product,” warned Catarina Flyborg, leader of enterprise solutions at GE Healthcare.
To prove this point, Flyborg presented examples where using a range of ready-to use products such as bioreactors, pre-packed chromatography columns, and filters could significantly increase the number of doses, while reducing cost of goods.
According to Flyborg, 500 L Wave disposable bioreactors could be used to produce 18 batches of a trivalent flu vaccine. This would total six batches per strain producing four million doses and could be made in 90 days by applying ready-to-use systems, in a staggered production mode. She added that to produce the same number of doses using a traditional set up of stainless steel fermentors, repacking and cleaning chromatography columns, would take 96 days.
“Companies can apply ready-to-use technology and rapidly put together a facility that suits their needs. However, once you get past the 10,000 L scale using ready-to-use and disposable technology, the cost of goods becomes so high that this is not a workable option, so it really benefits small biotechs that don’t have existing capacity, or companies looking to quickly set up and produce batches in countries where they don’t have facilities.”
According to Dr. Klingan, in 1992 the vaccine market was worth €2 billion ($2.96 billion), €15 billion ($22.24 billion) in 2008, and could be worth €33 billion ($48.94 billion) by 2018. The clear way for big pharma to get a slice of this is to develop joint ventures and alliances and in some cases acquire biotech partners to gain technologies or market access. New vaccines require a complex mix of novel technologies and manufacturing capacity, as well as a balanced presence in different geographies if they are going to be sustainably profitable.