By CorpGov Editorial Staff
The COVID-19 pandemic is both a health and economic crisis for countries around the world. Communities are experiencing loss of lives, businesses, and lifestyles, challenging biopharmaceutical companies to urgently develop therapeutics and vaccines that address this crisis while remaining profitable. Companies are employing diverse strategies to cope with the economic challenges and deliver public health solutions. Listed here are seven biopharmaceutical companies working to navigate this pandemic in 2020.
Gilead Sciences, Inc.
Gilead, a biopharmaceutical giant focused on research and discovery of innovative drugs, has been given the spotlight in this crisis. This is primarily due to Remdesivir, an antiviral recognized as the most promising COVID-19 therapeutic, which was recently granted Emergency Use Authorization by the FDA. The drug was granted orphan drug status in March, but Gilead requested for that status be removed following heavy criticism that it would result in massive tax benefits and a long patent period keeping generics—cheaper and more accessible alternatives—from becoming available. Gilead is building a consortium of manufacturing partners to ensure supply meets global demand through 2022.
Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
Regeneron is a biopharmaceutical company that researches and develops drugs and has produced seven FDA-approved treatments. The company focuses on eye diseases, allergic and inflammatory diseases, cancer, cardiovascular and metabolic diseases, infectious diseases, pain and rare diseases. Regeneron’s first quarter earnings reflected a rise in net income to $624.6 million from last year’s $461.1 million, revenue rose 33% to $1.83 billion, and shares surged 44% for the year – making it the best performing stock in the S&P 500 index for the period. Testing and scale up manufacturing of its REGN-COV2 antibody “cocktail” treatment for the prevention and treatment of COVID-19 is planned to start in June, with the goal of having hundreds of thousands of doses available by the end of August 2020.
Samsung Biologics Co., Ltd
Samsung Biologics – a contract development and manufacturing organization (CDMO) – provides end-to-end product development services to biopharmaceutical companies. The company recently became South Korea’s third-most-valuable company (first: Samsung Electronics and second: SK Hynix) following a lucrative partnership with Vir Biotechnology to develop a coronavirus antibody therapeutic. Samsung Biologics reported $169 million in revenue – 65 percent on-year increase – and posted an operating profit of $51 million in the first quarter of 2020. The company’s growth in profits has accelerated the plan to build a fourth plant, which will add an estimated 200,000+ liters of cell culture capacity, totaling the CDMO’s capacity to over 500,000 liters, which is forecasted to exceed that of Lonza Group and Boehringer Ingelheim. Drug developers across the globe are seeking Asian contract manufacturers for the production of therapeutics, opportunistically positioning Samsung Biologics to capitalize on its massive production capacity.
Eli Lilly and Company
Eli Lilly has responded to the crisis by supporting its community and patient population and by partnering with fellow biopharmaceutical companies to develop therapeutics for the coronavirus. For example, through its Lilly Foundation, it pledged $500,000 to the United Way of Central Indiana’s $16.5 million economic relief fund to help organizations that serve families and individuals affected by COVID-19. The company has supported its insulin-dependent diabetic population and those who have lost jobs or insurance plans detailing how they can switch to the appropriate generic medication or limit monthly prescription costs to avoid interruption to their supply of diabetes medication and to navigate this financially unstable time. Additionally, Eli Lilly has signed an agreement with Junshi Biosciences, a China-based biopharmaceutical firm, to jointly develop therapeutic antibodies to prevent and treat COVID-19. They expect to enter into clinical testing by July 2020.
Novartis is focused on testing drugs for alternative uses as COVID-19 treatments and giving back to the public in this time of crisis. It committed to donating 130 million doses of hydroxychloroquine to aid the global pandemic and donated $20 million in grants to support public health initiatives. The company is currently investigating, or planning to investigate, five drugs as a COVID-19 therapeutic: Hydroxychloroquine, Jakafi, Gleevec, Cosentyx, and Diovan. In partnership with Incyte, Novartis will test Jakafi (ruxolitinib) in a second phase 3 trial for COVID-19 patients on ventilators. Additionally, Novartis plans to launch a phase 3 trial assessing hydroxychloroquine – previously championed by President Trump – as a treatment for hospitalized patients with COVID-19.
Celltrion is a global biopharmaceutical company known for developing the world’s first biosimilar monoclonal antibody: Remsima. The company anticipates reaching sales of $288.45 million in the first quarter, up 59.7 percent from the previous year, and expanding its operating profit to $111 million. Remsima, used for treating rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis and a series of other diseases, elevated Celltrion’s first-quarter earnings. Celltrion also debuted a subcutaneous version of Remsima in Europe earlier this year, which has increased availability of hospital space by enabling treatment outside the hospital setting. Currently, the company is developing an antibody test and two antiviral treatments for the novel coronavirus, with clinical trials planned to begin in July.
Pfizer has responded to the COVID-19 virus by collaborating with other biopharmaceutical companies to develop vaccines and financially supporting medical and community initiatives. Additional company success is, unfortunately, a result of patients with severe symptoms of COVID-19 experiencing pneumonia, leading to an increase in sales of Pfizer’s pneumonia vaccine Prevnar 13. Revenue will increase depending on the success of the company’s collaboration with BioNTech for a COVID-19 vaccine, but the return on investment will not be seen in the near future due to lengthy development and approval pathways. Pfizer will also face competition from other biopharmaceutical giants with COVID-19 vaccines in the pipeline, such as Johnson and Johnson. Pfizer announced $40 million in financial aid for global medical and community needs. Additionally, Pfizer, along with Eli Lilly and Merck, allowed employees with medical and lab expertise to give by back volunteering with local healthcare systems.
Biopharmaceutical companies are under pressure to show compassion and demonstrate transparency and innovation regarding drug development, patient challenges, and public health initiatives. The reputations of pharmaceutical companies are at risk and their response to the COVID-19 crisis will be scrutinized and not easily forgotten.