Fosun Pharma stock surges on prospect of Covid-19 vaccine launch in China, after German partner BioNTech’s clinical success

Eric Ng
·4-min read

The shares of Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical (Group) surged by as much as 20.8 per cent on Tuesday after the success of German partner BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine during clinical trials. It is hoped the company will be able to launch the shot in China after going through a bridging trial.

Praising the work done by BioNTech and Pfizer, its US partner, in markets outside China, Guo Guangchang, the billionaire chairman of majority shareholder Fosun International, said Fosun Pharma was working with regulators to speed up clinical work in China to pave the way for its sale upon approval.

“This is a victory for science, a victory for global cooperation … it is a landmark moment marking the light at the end of the tunnel in our fight against the novel coronavirus,” he wrote in his microblog. “Currently, Fosun Phama is communicating with regulators, and is striving to be able to start bridging clinical trials and to launch BNT162b2 in mainland China as soon as possible, subject to regulatory approvals,” he said.

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BioNTech and Pfizer’s mRNA-based vaccine candidate BNT162b2 has proven to be more than 90 per cent effective in preventing Covid-19 infections. Photo: Reuters
BioNTech and Pfizer’s mRNA-based vaccine candidate BNT162b2 has proven to be more than 90 per cent effective in preventing Covid-19 infections. Photo: Reuters

BioNTech and Pfizer’s mRNA-based vaccine candidate BNT162b2 has proven to be more than 90 per cent effective in preventing Covid-19 infections, based on a global phase-three study on more than 43,500 participants that began in late July, they said in a statement late on Monday.

Fosun Pharma shares closed on Tuesday 14.2 per cent higher at HK$37.35. Fosun International, meanwhile, gained 5.4 per cent to HK$10.62.

Guo said last week Fosun Pharma was hoping to be able to sell the vaccine in China at around the same time as in Europe and the United States. The company agreed in March to pay BioNTech a licensing fee of up to US$85 million, besides sales royalties of 35 per cent from any future annual gross profit from sales in mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macau. It also agreed to buy US$50 million worth of BioNTech shares, which have more than tripled in value since then.

Once approved, Fosun Pharma plans to price the vaccine with a profit margin that will facilitate widespread usage on government procurement orders, while sales to the private sector will be priced based on “customer value”, Fosun Pharma’s chairman and chief executive, Wu Yifang, told an analysts conference on Tuesday.

The number of volunteers required for the bridging trial in China will be much smaller than trials conducted overseas, Wu told South China Morning Post in August.

Given mRNA is a brand new technology for vaccines, any company wishing to produce such vaccines in China will need to first obtain the technology from the developer and build production facility, said Helen Chen, head of L.E.K. Consulting’s China biopharmaceuticals and life sciences practice.

“This full process might mean the timelines are not any faster for China production than just ramping up imports,” she said.

BioNTech and Pfizer’s mRNA-based vaccine candidate BNT162b2 has proven to be more than 90 per cent effective in preventing Covid-19 infections, based on a global phase-three study on more than 43,500 participants that began in late July, they said in a statement late on Monday.

The vaccine candidate’s protection rate is higher than expectations of 70 per cent and the 50 per cent required by the US Food and Drug Administration, according to a Jefferies research note. BioNTech and Pfizer will continue to collect further data as the trial continues, for a final analysis planned when an accumulative total of 164 confirmed Covid-19 cases has accrued among the participants, said BioNTech co-founder and CEO Ugur Sahin.

The firms estimate that sufficient safety data on the vaccine candidate will be available by the third week of this month to meet the requirements of the FDA for potential authorisation for emergency use. They expect to be able to supply up to 50 million doses this year globally, and manufacture up to 1.3 billion doses next year.

Fosun Pharma has signed an agreement with Hong Kong-listed pharmaceutical distributor Jacobson Pharma to potentially supply 10 million doses to Hong Kong and Macau.

“With the vaccine’s efficacy over 90 per cent and no major safety issues observed, we believe the regulatory agencies are likely to authorise it for emergency use late [this year], followed by full approval [next year], pending supportive final data,” Morningstar analyst Damien Conover said in a note.

He, however, said BioNTech and Pfizer were unlikely to command much sustained pricing power, given that their vaccine will be subject to keen competition and government procurement. “With strong competitors like Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, AstrZeneca, Sanofi, GlaxoSmithKline and many more, we expect the pricing power of vaccines to be low, especially with several companies receiving government funding and stating a commitment to low pricing.”

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