BioNTech Looks to Expand into Other Markets as COVID-19 Revenues Dwindle
In an effort to weather declining revenues for its COVID-19 vaccine, German company BioNTech is seeking to diversify its business and prioritize cancer and other infectious diseases, the company revealed Monday during its first-quarter earnings report.
This pivot comes days after Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization, declared that COVID-19 “no longer constitutes a public health emergency of international concern.”
During the first quarter of 2023, BioNTech posted total revenues of approximately $1.4 billion, around five times lower than its $7.03 billion haul in Q1, 2022. The company's net profits similarly took a nosedive and sat at $554 million during Q1, 2023, down from around $4 billion during the same period last year.
Much of this loss was due to its shrinking COVID-19 business. In 2022, BioNTech posted nearly $19 billion in coronavirus sales. For the entire fiscal year of 2023, the company only expects this area to make around $5.5 billion.
Despite these figures, company executives were optimistic and instead focused on BioNTech’s pivot to other therapeutic areas.
“Within the next year, we aim to become a multi-product global biotechnology leader, aiming to contribute and address the world’s most pressing health challenges,” BioNTech CEO Ugur Sahin said during Monday’s earnings call, adding that the company is looking to launch “multiple potentially registrational trials” in 2023.
BioNTech currently has multiple vaccine candidates in various stages of development for several different cancers. Autogene cevumeran, discovered through its iNeST platform, is being studied as an adjuvant intervention in colorectal cancer and pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma, as well as a first-line treatment option for melanoma.
The biotech also inked several deals during the first quarter to further bolster its cancer pipeline. In March, BioNTech signed a $200-million license and collaboration deal with Maryland biotech OncoC4, earning it the anti-CTLA-4 antibody ONC-392. The partners are running Phase I/II studies of this candidate for multiple solid tumor types, alone or in combination with PD-(L)-1 inhibitors.
The company is also preparing to run its first Phase III study testing ONC-392 in relapsed/refractory non-small cell lung cancer, with enrollment set to start in the next few weeks, BioNTech Chief Medical Officer Özlem Türeci said during Monday’s call. A progress poster of the trial will be presented at the upcoming American Society of Clinical Oncology 2023 annual meeting in June.
In April, BioNTech again found a cancer collaborator in Shanghai-based Duality Biologics. For $170 million upfront, the biotech earned two antibody-drug conjugates, including the lead candidate DB-1303, which targets the HER2 protein.
Beyond cancer, BioNTech is also expanding its vaccine platform to address other infectious diseases. In January, BioNTech and Pfizer broadened their existing partnership to leverage their proprietary antigen technology to develop a shot that prevents shingles. Trials for this are expected to start later this year.
BNT164, BioNTech’s vaccine candidate for tuberculosis, also entered Phase I assessments during the first quarter of 2023. In addition, the company is advancing its investigational flu shot, BNT161, which is currently in Phase III development.
Tristan Manalac is an independent science writer based in metro Manila, Philippines. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.