BioNTech powers to profit on Covid vaccine demand

BioNTech beat expectations in its first-quarter earnings, swinging to a €1.6bn profit and pledging to invest proceeds from its Covid-19 vaccine in becoming a “powerhouse” in cancer therapies.

The German biotech, which has developed its vaccine with Pfizer, forecasts current 2020 contracts to supply 1.8bn doses are worth about €12.4bn. But this could rise further as BioNTech expects to have manufacturing capacity for up to 3bn doses this year.

The company has already signed contracts for 2022 with Canada and Israel, and is in talks with other governments eager to prepare for waning immunity or new variants by buying up booster shots.

Ugur Sahin, BioNTech’s chief executive, said the world will have “more than enough” vaccines in just nine months as it rapidly expands manufacturing.

He said there was “absolutely no need” to waive patents, a proposal recently backed by the US to try to increase distribution of vaccines to developing countries.

Sahin said the company’s goal is to build a “21st century immunotherapy powerhouse”, using the messengerRNA technology behind the vaccine for drugs that harness the immune system to fight cancer.

BioNTech has started three early stage trials in oncology so far this year and expects to begin three more. It has 14 oncology product candidates in 15 ongoing trials. The company also expects to start dosing participants in a trial of a flu vaccine, developed with Pfizer, in the third quarter.

Its Marburg facility in central Germany has the capacity to deliver 1bn doses a year, and the company said it is now contributing more than 50 per cent of the manufacturing of the drug substance worldwide.

BioNTech is also expanding internationally, signing a deal with Singapore on Monday to open an office and regional manufacturing facility in the state, and building a plant in China as part of a joint venture with Fosun Pharma.

The biotech reported diluted profit per share of €4.39, higher than the average analyst estimate of about €3, for the three months to the end of March. The company made a pre-tax profit of €1.6bn, compared with a loss of €53m in the same period the year before. 

Total sales were over €2bn, including the company’s share of the gross profit from the territories where Pfizer sells the vaccine and BioNTech’s direct sales in Germany and Turkey.

Shares in BioNTech, which have soared 268 per cent in the last year, were up 8 cent in early trading in New York.

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