mRNA Vaccines are the Most Transformational Legacy of COVID-19 in Biopharma
Of the many changes brought from the COVID-19 pandemic, mRNA vaccines are the most transformational legacy for the biopharmaceutical industry when it comes to protecting future generations from disease. Success of mRNA vaccines, from both Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech have catapulted the technology into the spotlight, and it’s showing no signs of slowing down.
This week, big pharma company Sanofi announced it would be investing heavily in mRNA therapeutics, with plans to form a team of approximately 400 people in R&D, digital, and chemistry, manufacturing, and controls (CMC) to develop mRNA therapies for non-pandemic targets (Blankenship, 2021). The company did not specify what their therapeutic targets were, but alluded to preventative infectious diseases with high unmet needs (Blankenship, 2021).
Sanofi, GSK, Merck, and Pfizer have tended to dominate the vaccine market prior to COVID-19. Logistically, it had been a tough area for other companies to penetrate because of the need to mass manufacture product. In addition, because of the preventative nature of vaccines, they are not an attractive investment for companies looking to make huge profits on drugs targeted at exclusive populations suffering from rare, genetic diseases and cancers.
Then when the pandemic hit, companies such as Moderna and BioNTech proved that vaccines had come a long way since their inception. Both biotech companies and big pharma can no longer ignore the potential health revolution held within the power of mRNA vaccines.
For example, if we apply mRNA technology to seasonal flu, scientists are able to more accurately match a vaccine to the exact strain from that season, produce it more quickly, and thus provide greater efficacy against that season’s particular strain (Merelli, 2021).
Additionally, mRNA has the potential to target diseases researchers did not even realize could be treated with vaccines, such as HIV, cytomegalovirus (CMV), and malaria. As the technology advances, researchers are also sure it has the potential to treat diseases such as cystic fibrosis, heart disease, and cancers.
mRNA vaccines are the most transformational legacy of the COVID-19 pandemic. As mRNA continues to transform the pharmaceutical industry, its most important contribution may be the shift from treatment to prevention, a change long overdue in the industry (and Western medicine) for decades. As emerging biotech companies find ways to harness the technology to expand its reach, it will necessitate big pharma’s involvement to enable the production and manufacturing of mass quantities of therapeutic.
Life sciences executive search consultants should expect to see big pharma players in the vaccine sector increasingly participating in partnerships with emerging mRNA biotech companies, which will need the support and production capabilities these companies can offer. In addition, the importance of independent CDMO and distribution companies will be necessary to maintain adequate supply and safely move mRNA drugs to destinations globally.
If you’re interested in learning more about G&E Partners’ talent management approach to executive search, please get in touch with one of our expert life sciences executive search consultants today.
Blankenship, K. (30 June 2021). Sanofi invests in the future of mRNA with plan to pump billions of dollars into next-gen cell therapy business. Endpoints News. https://endpts.com/sanofi-invests-in-the-future-of-mrna-with-plan-to-pump-billions-of-dollars-into-next-gen-cell-therapy-business/
Merelli, A. (12 May 2021). Investors are starting to appreciate the business potential of vaccines. Quartz. https://qz.com/2006642/will-more-companies-make-vaccines-now/