By Naomi Kresge
- New goal represents one-quarter increase from prior estimate
- BioNTech shares gain as company reports first annual profit
BioNTech SE and Pfizer Inc. raised this year’s production target for their Covid-19 vaccine to as many as 2.5 billion doses, with the German biotech company’s chief predicting a version of the shot that can be stored in refrigerators will be ready within months.
The new target represents an increase of about one quarter from the company’s earlier estimate.
The world’s thirst for more shots has challenged vaccine makers, who had to pivot from a breakneck development pace to ensuring production capacity. Pfizer and BioNTech have repeatedly revised their targets as they scaled up production, largely avoiding the controversies facing other drugmakers such as AstraZeneca Plc.
“We are seeing an increased demand,” BioNTech CEO Ugur Sahin said in an interview. “At the moment we have prepared ourselves to produce 2.5 billion doses, but in principle there is room for further increase.”https://www.bloomberg.com/graphics/2020-coronavirus-dash/
On Tuesday, BioNTech said it’s also pushing forward to address a weakness of its shot — the need for longer-term storage at ultra-cold temperatures. The company said it’s advancing with two new formulations: a ready-to-use vaccine that can be stored at fridge temperatures, and a freeze-dried version that could be stockpiled by governments in the future.
The vaccine, the first cleared in the U.S. and European Union, has catapulted BioNTech into the front ranks of European biotechs, allowing it to generate enough revenue to report its first annual profit.
Sahin and Ozlem Tureci, his wife and co-founder, have said they’ll use the vaccine profits to push forward with research in other areas as well. The messenger RNA technology is being studied for other types of vaccines, including seasonal flu, and could also have applications as a treatment for cancer and other diseases.