Vaxxinity (VAXX) CEO Mei Mei Hu sees opportunity in low- and middle-income markets, underserved by the biggest COVID-19 vaccine players to date, for the pandemic and moving forward .
“COVID has taught us to look at black swans as a macro event. I think everyone needs to be open to LMICs…because there’s still a market to be had – and it’s important,” Hu told Yahoo Finance in a recent post. interview.
The Dallas-based company (a 2021 merger of the former COVAXX and United Neuroscience), went public amid a surge in biotech investment last year, but interest has since waned, leaving Vaxxinity in a period of stasis.
“The investor market, they’re so tired of COVID. Everyone’s tired. It’s tiring — you don’t want to invest in things you want to quit,” Hu said.
Yet Hu has not given up on the company’s COVID-19 vaccine, which recently received White House approval as a potential second-generation vaccine, that is, a stronger candidate that serves a goal beyond the emergency of the pandemic.
“If you are realistic, [the virus] not going away,” Hu said.
“The market is not going to go away and it will be a huge business opportunity,” she added.
The two market leaders in the United States, Pfizer/BioNTech (PFE/BNTX) and Moderna (MRNA), have raised billions of dollars in public money since the end of 2020, when the first doses were administered.
But experts say there is always a new generation of vaccine that is likely to be a better product. In the case of Covid, a number of options, including nasal delivery and targeting all coronaviruses, are on the table. This was the topic of discussion at a recent White House Vaccine Summitwhich featured Vaxxinity.
Hu explained that the company’s vaccine targets the current coronavirus more, which should result in stronger protection.
Simply put, think of the virus as a face, she explained.
It’s one thing to identify the virus through the nose, but once you capture more facial IDs, you can schedule the vaccine for the eyes, ears, mouth, Hu said.
“So if the nose slips away, you have even more to catch,” she said.
Vaccine makers are scrambling to meet a fall campaign relaunch deadline, set by the US government, to roll out a newly formulated vaccine that will target the BA.5 variant – the latest to dominate in the US that has shown some level of manufacture of current vaccines less effective against infections. But they remain effective against serious illnesses and diseases.
And it’s not just a need in the United States. Global vaccination uptake remains a concern – as new infections give rise to the likelihood of new, more troublesome variants.
“We are targeting the rest of the world. There is still massive demand and often we don’t think about it because it doesn’t affect us,” Hu said.
But in reality, the world’s population is many times greater than the US population. And if consortia buy the vaccines to distribute, as is the case with the COVAX program, the price is not such a major obstacle.
“LMICs, they’ve never been a priority for most US pharmaceutical companies, but there’s a lot of market there,” Hu said.
While major vaccine makers have always captured some of the market, particularly in the case of childhood vaccines, the pandemic has opened the door to a larger market for adult vaccines.
Especially in the price of $10-20 per dose that has been the norm during the pandemic.
“Just look at the numbers,” Hu said. “At the end of the day, most of the world is an LMIC.”
Follow Anjalee on Twitter @AnjKhem
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