In November, Pfizer ($PFE) won expert backing for the use of its vaccine Prevnar 13 to protect adults over 50 from pneumococcal infections. If the FDA agrees with the panel's decision--and it usually does--Pfizer could have an expanded approval of the blockbuster vaccine in hand by January. That could translate into as much as $2 billion in additional sales for the pharma giant, which lost patent protection for Lipitor this week.
Heading up Pfizer's vaccine efforts is Emilio Emini, who came to the company in Pfizer's buyout of Wyeth in 2009. After graduate school, Emini spent 22 years at Merck conducting research on HIV drugs and other notable vaccines like Zostavax, RotaTeq and Gardasil. He retired in 2004 to pursue nonprofit work, but later got back into the R&D game at Wyeth. In an interview with Forbes, Emini explained what draws him to vaccine research. "The rush comes from the fact that once you introduce a vaccine, if it's a successful vaccine, within a very, very short period of time the disease that you are immunizing against goes away," he told the magazine.
The disease Emini has his eye on now is pneumonia. Prevnar, which has been on the market since 2000, has already helped cut pneumonia and meningitis rates in kids. Pfizer hopes that next-generation Prevnar 13 will help reduce adults' risk of contracting pneumonia in hospital settings, where it's common. The drugmaker is close to winning approval for use of the vaccine in adults over 50 and has an 85,000-person study under way to further prove that Prevnar 13 can prevent pneumonia in older adults.
- read the full Forbes article
Interview: Pfizer vaccine unit eyes adults, infectious disease