Second Tier Covid Vaccines Struggle: With Good or Bad Results
(Thursday, June 24, 2021)
Slow and steady does not win the race, at least for the medical product development, as shown by two companies that were slowest of the pack of frontrunners developing Covid vaccines. In both cases, late comers face extreme hurdles to get their products to patients. This week CureVac announced poor clinical trial results with its vaccine, blaming rapid spread of variants for the terrible response observed. The news sank CureVac’s stock as it seems exceedingly hard, if not impossible, for the CureVac vaccine to ever be used for Covid. A couple of weeks back, Novavax announced excellent response to its vaccine, but the news failed to elicit any excitement for the company’s vaccine, owing to the disappearing demand for the new vaccine. In both cases, the companies are mostly responsible for their fate. Both CureVac and Novavax were among the first 10 companies in early 2020 with a promising vaccine in hand. CureVac was right next to Moderna and Pfizer with an mRNA vaccine, and way back in July 2020 formed a collaboration with GSK to develop its Covid vaccine. But it suffered setbacks in timely launch of its trials, and its pivotal trial could not be initiated till Dec 2020, by which time both Moderna and Pifzer vaccines has already been granted emergency use authorizations. CureVac moved its pivotal trial to South America which had a different infection profile than other parts of the world, which may have partially contributed to the trial failure. Novavax on the other hand was more fortunate with its vaccine. It won early support from the US government for its vaccine getting almost $400 million in May 2020 followed by a $1.6 billion commitment in July 2020. The company, however, was far behind its competition in starting its clinical trials, and hence lagged in collecting critical data. The promising results with Novavax’s vaccine came far too late. It is still not ready for emergency use authorization and months away from getting to patients. It is hard to know from public information what contributed to the delays, but the results are public. Both companies are slowly becoming examples of missed opportunities for unexplained reasons. It should be a lesson to all developers who underestimate the power of time. Both CureVac and Novavax have promising technologies and will have another day to prove themselves; but for now, they seemed to have missed this boat.
Dr. Mukesh Kumar
Founder & CEO, FDAMap
Linkedin: Mukesh Kumar, PhD, RAC