Pharmaniaga to supply Omicron-specific vaccines

Sinovac is developing a vaccine for the Omicron variant which is expected to be produced in May, says group MD 

by S BIRRUNTHA / pic by TMR FILE 

PHARMANIAGA Bhd is eyeing opportunities to supply filled-and-finished Omicron-specific vaccines through collaborations with Sinovac Biotech Ltd and other vaccine producers. 

Group MD Datuk Zulkarnain Md Eusope (picture) said Sinovac is developing a vaccine for the Omicron variant which is expected to be produced in May. 

“We are also in discussions with other vaccine manufacturers with other types of technology. We cannot disclose the names at the moment,” he said during the group’s virtual media briefing on its fourth-quarter and full-year financial performance for 2021 yesterday. 

Zulkarnain added that with Omicron infection soaring across the world, the group foresees continuity of demand for Sinovac Covid-19 vaccine as the latest study shows three doses of the vaccine produced higher antibodies in 95% of the recipients against all variants including Omicron. 

He also highlighted that the world health bodies from several countries including the US, Canada and Australia have all recommended the use of vaccines for children aged five to 12 years old. 

He said the continued demand for vaccines in Malaysia bodes well for Pharmaniaga’s future prospects. 

Zulkarnain said Pharmaniaga remains focused on establishing a presence in the international market and continues to be steadfast in maintaining portfolio resilience, as well as preserving liquidity to ensure business sustainability. 

He revealed that the group is setting its footprint on the international market by supplying pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical products throughout the South-East Asia region, African nations and Europe. 

“The group aims to strategise business expansion in the international market going forward. 

“We have initiated this by exporting 30,000 doses of our Sinovac Covid-19 vaccine to Myanmar and currently negotiating with other countries in this region, as well as some parts of African nations. 

“We hope to conclude these deals by the first half of the year (1H22),” he added. 

Zulkarnain shared that Pharmaniaga is currently strengthening its capability in vaccine development and manufacturing by leveraging on the group’s expertise as Malaysia’s leading technically viable pharmaceutical company with a manpower of almost 300 subject matter experts in various disciplines, including pharmacists, chemists, regulatory affairs and clinical affairs specialists. 

“Currently, we are partnering with several renowned companies, such as the Serum Institute of India, SK Bioscience (South Korea), Sinovac (China) and BioNet-Asia (Thailand). 

“We will also strengthen our regulatory affairs division by setting up a new scientific advisory group consisting of world-renowned scientists, and their names will be announced soon,” he noted. 

Zulkarnain added the group will continue to grow its business by registering more products in the Asean countries, Africa and Europe. 

He highlighted that Pharmaniaga has more than 320 approved products that are currently manufactured at its plants, and when these products are registered in those market, they can be exported. 

“We foresee this effort will be achieved in two to three years and will be carried out by working closely with established international partners in those regions,” he said. 

He said Pharmaniaga will continue to pursue new avenues of growth and emphasise on research and development (R&D) of biopharmaceuticals, vaccines and insulins to bolster its product portfolio. 

He said the group has a large and capable R&D team to formulate its own generic pharmaceutical products every year, allowing the group to capture new markets. 

Pharmaniaga also remains committed to expanding its non-concession businesses, of which the group had embarked on establishing the world’s first halal vaccine and insulin facilities. 

He added the construction of the plant is progressing smoothly and is on track for commercialisation by 2025, barring any unforeseen circumstances. 

“The construction of the new halal plant is timely for our growth as there are currently more than 537 million adults globally as at end-Dec 2021 who are living with diabetes and this number is expected to rise to 643 million by 2030 and 783 million by 2045. 

“The global insulin drugs market size is expected to grow from US$25.9 billion 2020 to US$32.1 billion by 2025,” he noted. 

Zulkarnain said the group believes there is a huge potential to capture part of this market as demand for insulins is on the rise in low- and middle-income countries.

For the fourth quarter ended Dec 31, 2021 (4Q21), Pharmaniaga reported a net profit of RM85.48 million compared to a net loss of RM6.33 million in the same period of the previous year.

Revenue for the period rose 12.16% YoY to RM711.72 million supported by positive growth across the group’s concession, non-concession and Indonesian businesses. 

The pharmaceutical group has declared its fourth interim dividend of five sen per share, which is payable on April 5. 

For the full year (FY21), the group’s net profit surged to RM172.15 million from RM27.49 million in the previous year on higher contributions from the logistics and distribution and manufacturing divisions.