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Pfizer Pouring COVID Profits into Cancer Battle, CEO Bourla Says

Pfizer Cancer COVID
PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis congratulates the CEO of Pfizer, Albert Bourla, at the launch of the pharmaceutical giant’s new Thessaloniki facilities recently. Credit: AMNA

Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer is pouring the windfall profits from its COVID-19 vaccine into developing products to battle cancer, Chief Executive Albert Bourla said at a Reuters event on Thursday.

“Pfizer is giving all the profits that we made from COVID in ’21 and ’22 and what we will make in ’23 to acquire technology and products that we believe will allow us to battle cancer,” he said, calling the effort the pharmaceutical company’s “next moonshot.”

The COVID products drove Pfizer’s revenue to record levels, topping $100 billion in 2022 and $80 billion in 2021, Reuters says.

Shifting Pfizer’s focus from COVID to cancer

Bourla is looking to shift the drugmaker’s focus from the COVID-19 vaccines and treatment that put the company at the forefront of the pandemic response and led to a once-in-a-lifetime surge in revenue.

The company is in the midst of a steep but expected fall in COVID product sales and is also preparing for declining revenue in coming years for some of its top-selling drugs as they begin to face competition from cheap generics.

As a result, investors are looking for Pfizer to produce new blockbuster drugs that can pull in billions every year, either from the company’s own pipeline of medicines in development or through deals.

Bourla has already overseen a string of acquisitions to bolster Pfizer’s drug pipeline, headlined by the $43 billion deal for Seagen, which makes complex targeted cancer therapies.

Seagen, headquartered in Washington, is a pioneer in the field of antibody-drug conjugates. These treatments act like “guided missiles,” targeting cancerous cells while sparing healthy ones, and have proved effective in the fight against cancer, according to Seagen’s official website.

“We can add value to what Seagen is bringing,” Bourla, CEO of Pfizer, said in an interview. “It’s more or less a situation like when mRNA was in our hands. With our scale, with our capabilities, this is the same here.”

According to Reuters, Pfizer’s other recent deals include its purchase of Biohaven Pharmaceutical Holding, maker of a migraine prevention treatment, for $11.6 billion, a $6.7 billion buyout of ulcerative colitis drug developer Arena Pharmaceuticals, and a $5.4 billion deal for Global Blood Therapeutics with its focus on treating sickle cell disease.

COVID is no longer a global health emergency

On Thursday, the U.S. government ended the COVID Public Health Emergency that allowed millions of Americans to receive vaccines, tests and treatments at no cost.

Last week the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that COVID is no longer a global health emergency.

“For more than a year, the pandemic has been on a downward trend with population immunity increasing from vaccination and infection, mortality decreasing, and the pressure on health systems easing,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a press conference in Geneva.

“This trend has allowed most countries to return to life as we knew it before Covid-19,” Tedros said.

“It’s therefore with great hope that I declared Covid-19 over as a global health emergency,” he said.

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