March 2, 2023
National Biotech Reporter
Good morning, all. Damian here with downbeat news from a former unicorn, the next vaccine competition, and a dismal milestone for Novavax. 


Ginkgo is moving in the wrong direction

Ginkgo Bioworks, the erstwhile unicorn focused on synthetic biology, expects its revenue to fall by more than 40% in 2023, marking the latest disappointment for a company that has lost more than 85% of its value since going public.

Yesterday Ginkgo forecast full-year revenue of “at least” $278 million. That’s well below 2022’s $478 million and a 12% decline from the prior year’s $314 million. Ginkgo’s projections also underperformed Wall Street’s estimates of about $385 million.

Ginkgo, whose business is using engineered cells to manufacture a host of products, has lost nearly $20 billion in valuation since going public in 2021. But the company, which spent January’s J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference trying to woo potential drug industry partners, still has $1.3 billion in cash to sort out its path to profitability.


Pfizer, GSK and the next big vaccine competition

Rivals Pfizer and GSK are likely each just months away from winning FDA approval for the first vaccines for RSV, a vexing respiratory infection. But the differing opinions of FDA advisers — and competition from other companies — make it unclear how the expected $10 billion market for RSV vaccines will shake out.

Yesterday, a panel of expert advisers to the agency voted 10 to 2 that GSK’s vaccine was safe and effective at preventing the disease caused by RSV in people over 60. The day before, that same panel voted in favor of Pfizer’s vaccine, but only by a margin of seven to four. 

What remains unclear is just how widely the vaccines might be used. Last week, an influential Centers for Disease Control and Prevention group expressed doubts as to just how cost-effective the vaccines might be and voiced concerns about rare cases of Guillain-Barré syndrome, an immunological side effect that can lead to temporary paralysis.

Beyond Pfizer and GSK, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson are each moving toward FDA approval with RSV vaccines of their own. If everything goes well, there could be four licensed products vying for market share by 2025.


Activism works

One day after activist investors successfully deposed its chairman, Amarin’s stock price is up nearly 20% and the new regime is already planning cost cuts.

Amarin is planning to slash its operating expenses by another 20% in 2023, the company said yesterday. That follows a successful activist challenge by Sarissa Capital, which had urged the company to dramatically reduce its expenses and focus on the European market, where its only approved medicine has potential for revenue growth.

Sarissa’s victory follows activist pressure that led Bayer to replace its long-time CEO and comes amid increased activity among the world’s corporate raiders. According to Bloomberg, activist investors have set their sights on companies with more than $400 billion in combined value, pressuring management to embrace austerity in the name of shareholder value.


Novavax is worth less now than before Covid

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Novavax, a company that developed a powerful Covid-19 vaccine and then repeatedly failed to make money from it, is now trading below its value at the outset of the pandemic.

The company’s share price fell about 25% yesterday after Novavax warned that it might not have enough cash to survive the year and missed analysts’ revenue estimates for the fourth quarter. The company’s closing share price of $6.86 is its lowest since February 2020.

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