Pfizer is doing a little house cleaning of its pipeline, but not to worry. CEO Albert Bourla, Ph.D., is expecting to bring on external science that could help reap "at least $25 billion of risk-adjusted revenues" by 2030.
In addition to ceasing development of the intravenous sibling to COVID-19 oral antiviral Paxlovid, the New York pharma is also ditching two phase 1 assets in solid tumors and sickle cell disease. The company disclosed the pipeline changes in its quarterly earnings report Tuesday.
So what will replace them? Think later-stage assets and "earlier medical innovations" that could translate into "breakthroughs," according to Bourla's prepared remarks. The strategy isn't different from Pfizer's pre-pandemic plan in 2019, but business development will now happen at an "accelerated pace," Bourla said. That's thank to the billions in cash the pharmaceutical giant has on hand after successfully developing a COVID-19 vaccine and treatment.
Bourla and Chief Business Innovation Officer Aamir Malik provided no color on the size of potential acquisitions that could give Pfizer access to such breakthrough meds. The Big Pharma is "agnostic to size," Bourla said on the earnings call, and Malik told analysts that some of the pharma's "best successes have come from some capital-light collaborations."
In today's market, Pfizer would have to justify high premiums, perhaps by identifying cost-saving measures for any deal.
“This is not the time to disrupt the momentum of the company," Bourla emphasized to analysts during an earnings call riddled with technical difficulties.
Asked if Pfizer can expect to grow in the second half of this decade without business development activity, Bourla said the company is on a positive growth roadmap with its existing pipeline, but external resources will be needed to maintain a high level of growth into 2030.
Bourla highlighted mRNA and recent collaborations as key examples of Pfizer's business development strategy. This includes a shingles vaccine with BioNTech, a rare diseases pact with Beam, collaboration with Acuitas and a licensing agreement with Codex DNA.
Messenger RNA, the technology behind Pfizer/BioNTech's and Moderna's COVID-19 vaccines, is "not the holy grail," but it could have a "game-changing impact on global health," Bourla said.
Elsewhere, Pfizer hopes to get at least one program that's been on hold back on track. The Big Pharma expects to reopen trial sites for its hemophilia A gene therapy in the first half of this year. Pfizer and partner Sangamo Therapeutics voluntarily paused the phase 3 trial of giroctocogene fitelparvovec to change the protocol after it was discovered the therapy potentially raised the risk of blood clots. The delay was disclosed in November, when the FDA slapped a clinical hold on the study, dubbed AFFINE.
Pfizer is working on submitting a protocol amendment and other documents, the company said. Disruptions to Pfizer's hemophilia gene therapy program set the company further behind CSL Behring and BioMarin, which both plan to ask for regulatory nods for their hemophilia treatments before mid-year.
Regarding the two discontinued phase 1 assets, Pfizer terminated the trial of a hemoglobin beta modulator (PF-07059013) in patients with the red blood cell disorder sickle cell disease. The early-stage study of the other drug—a PRMT5 inhibitor named PF-06939999 in patients with solid tumors—is slated to collect final primary outcome data on April 29, according to ClinicalTrials.gov.