Sanofi, one of the companies racing to develop a safe and effective coronavirus vaccine, saw its overall vaccine business get a boost from accelerated demand for flu shots.
The Paris-based pharmaceutical giant's vaccine franchise reported sales of €2.08 billion during the third quarter, reflecting a 7.7% year-over-year increase. Sales for influenza vaccines alone grew by a record 44.9% to €1.07 billion during the quarter, which managed to partially offset the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on meningitis vaccine Menactra, as well as its adult booster and travel vaccines.
"Overall, we are confident to maintain our global flu market leadership with a shipment of approximately a quarter billion flu vaccine doses worldwide in 2020," Sanofi Pasteur Executive Vice President Thomas Triomphe said in an Oct. 29 earnings call. Most of these flu vaccines will be shipped in November and December, Triomphe added.
Sanofi has sufficient capacity to meet increasing vaccine demand propelled by the looming flu season and an anticipated higher-than-usual vaccination rate in January and February. "The expansion of our manufacturing capacity is on track to meet the projected increase in worldwide immunization rate against flu," Triomphe noted.
Looking further ahead, the company sees room for growth in vaccination rates among certain age groups, such as the elderly in Europe, as well as expansion into markets such as China, where the uptake of flu shots is very low, Triomphe said.
The other key driver of growth in the quarter was Dupixent, with the allergy treatment growing 68.6% to €918 million. The first targeted biologic approved for the most common form of eczema — and now also approved for asthma and nasal polyps — saw growth across all three of these main indications.
COVID-19 vaccine update
Triomphe reaffirmed the company's target of producing 1 billion doses of its coronavirus vaccine — produced as part of an unprecedented collaboration with the U.K.'s GlaxoSmithKline PLC — with millions of doses already ordered by various countries and organizations. The day before the earnings call, both companies committed 200 million units of the vaccine to COVAX — which aims to equally distribute doses around the world — following supply agreements with Canada, the EU, the U.S., and the U.K.
Boosted by a $2.1 billion funding injection from the U.S. government's Operation Warp Speed program in July, the investigational vaccine entered a phase 1/2 study in September — with results expected by early December. If the trial yields positive data, Triomphe said Sanofi plans to conduct a phase 3 study in over 10 countries with a goal of bringing a vaccine to market toward the end of the first half of 2021.
Despite vaccine candidates from the likes of AstraZeneca PLC and Moderna Inc. already in phase 3 trials, Sanofi CEO Paul Hudson revealed the company is prepared for a scenario where competitors beat them to the finish line.
"It's going to take multi-billions of doses to get the world back to a new normal. And so we're pretty confident actually that all our doses will be needed at some point in 2021," Hudson said.