This week, Pfizer announced another major investment in manufacturing capacity in the United States. Its investment in a new facility is focused on tackling the unique challenges in manufacturing gene therapies. We also look at the possibility of replacing glasses with eye drops, crowdsourcing cancer research and merger activity in 2021. Finally, we share a graphical breakdown of both the remarkable and worrisome aspects of COVID-19 vaccines.
Note, this is our last “Five things” issue for 2021. We’ll resume publication the week of Jan. 3, 2022. For now, this week we highlight five things impacting the life sciences industry. Here’s the latest.
Building off trends in gene therapy development and manufacturing, Pfizer has opened a new facility in Durham, N.C. The facility caters to early-stage production with its sprawling 85,000 square feet footprint. This facility will be one of three Pfizer gene therapy sites in North Carolina. The other two sites cover phase I/II manufacturing and late-stage/commercial development. The facility is part of a six-year, $800 million plan by Pfizer to build gene therapy manufacturing facilities. Gene therapies hope to cure new diseases through the correction of defective genes.
After two years of more screen time than most of us could have imagined, Allergan has a solution for a hundred million Americans who find themselves squinting or reaching for reading glasses. Presbyopia, commonly known as farsightedness, impacts the eyes’ ability to focus due to a loss of elasticity. These drops allow the pupil to narrow and bring closer objects into focus, and the effects last between six to 10 hours. While these drops are intended to be used daily in lieu of reading glasses, a 30-day supply will run you $80, and there is no insurance reimbursement as glasses are less expensive and the drops are not a medical necessity. While not unusual, the number of Food and Drug Administration-approved drugs and medical products not covered by insurance, such as those related to diet, cosmetic issues, fertility and weight loss, is growing as populations age, become more affluent and demand a greater market for non-necessity products to supplement their lives and wellbeing. As standards of care evolve with emerging technologies and cost versus value of care continues to be a focus for lawmakers, it’s likely that patients will find themselves reaching into their own pockets more frequently for new treatments and products.
Facing a diagnosis of a rare and often fatal cancer of the blood and lymph nodes, Corrie Painter found almost no data about the disease she was facing. After surgery, treatment and recovery, she resolved herself to help fill the data gap for the cancer she survived as well as many other types of rare cancers. Stat News interviews her to explore why data is often locked in silos, and how more data can help patients with rare diseases.
Despite the last-minute acquisitions of Vifor by CSL ($11.7 billion) and Arena by Pfizer ($6.7 billion), 2021 is on track to have the lowest volume and value of mergers since 2017, according to Evaluate Pharma. This likely reflects high valuations and concern over stricter oversight by the Federal Trade Commission. With stock prices falling, there is hope that 2022 may offer a better environment for mergers and acquisitions. However, regulatory concerns will take longer to play out.
Faced with an unending flood of news about variants, vaccines, boosters and treatments, it is easy to lose sight of the remarkable impact that COVID-19 vaccines had on 2021. We should never take for granted the fact that vaccines were developed swiftly and that more than 8.5 billion doses have been delivered in just 12 months. However, we also must remember that distribution of vaccines has been inequitable leaving broad swaths of the world unprotected, new variants are constantly emerging, and challenges and risks continue.