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July 5th, 2024 | 07:35 CEST

Vidac Pharma, BioNTech, GSK: Pioneers in medical progress - Who will win the race?

  • Biotechnology
  • Biotech
  • Pharma
Photo credits: GSK plc.

With around 20 million cancer diagnoses worldwide each year, innovative therapeutic approaches are urgently needed. Companies such as Vidac Pharma are currently developing new ways of treating cancer that could lead to a groundbreaking breakthrough. The reason for this is the discovery of a particular enzyme and its mode of action. At the same time, a patent dispute is raging between Moderna and BioNTech, which could significantly impact the future of mRNA technology. This makes the strategic partnership between GSK and CureVac all the more important. The British company GSK is paying billions of euros for rights to COVID-19 and flu vaccines, which CureVac is to develop. During the pandemic, CureVac was noted more for its shortcomings in vaccine development. Will they achieve a breakthrough now?

time to read: 6 minutes | Author: Juliane Zielonka

Table of contents:

    David Elsley, CEO, Cardiol Therapeutics Inc.
    "[...] As a company dedicated to developing treatments for rare heart diseases, we see this as an opportune moment to contribute to the fight against heart disease and make meaningful strides in improving heart health worldwide. [...]" David Elsley, CEO, Cardiol Therapeutics Inc.

    Full interview


    Targeted enzyme modification against cancer: Vidac Pharma's innovative therapeutic approach in focus

    According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the number of diagnosed cancer cases worldwide is around 20 million. The numbers continue to rise, whether due to unhealthy lifestyles, environmental pollution or other influences such as excessive sun exposure.
    The current figures for skin cancer cases are also thought-provoking. Around 300,000 people are diagnosed with the disease every year, and more than 4,000 people suffer a fatal outcome.

    Vidac Pharma is a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company developing pioneering therapies against cancer and oncological skin diseases. Founded in 2012 by Prof. Max Herzberg, a pioneer in Israeli life sciences, Vidac aims to reverse the abnormal metabolism of cancer cells because that is exactly what happens in the human body: Cells degenerate and multiply. The cancer develops metastases and spreads throughout the body.

    There are currently two promising drugs in Vidac Pharma's development pipeline:

    • VDA-1102: an ointment for the topical treatment of actinic keratosis (Phase 2b) and cutaneous T-cell lymphoma (Phase 2a).
    • VDA-1275: An active substance for the systemic treatment of solid tumours (preclinical phase).

    Actinic keratosis is a common skin change caused by UV radiation that is considered a precursor to skin cancer. It appears as rough, scaly patches on sun-exposed areas such as the face or back of the hand. Older people and people with fair skin are particularly affected. Cutaneous T-cell lymphoma is a rare form of skin cancer in which T lymphocytes attack the skin. It manifests itself as red, itchy patches and is often chronic.

    Vidac Pharma is developing a novel approach to cancer therapy based on modifying cell metabolism. Cancer cells are characterized by an overproduction of the enzyme hexokinase 2 (HK2). This enzyme binds to a specific protein (VDAC1) in the mitochondrial envelope - the energy centers of the cell - causing an abnormal metabolism that promotes cancer cell growth.

    Vidac's innovative approach is to develop a molecule that alters the structure of HK2 so that it can no longer bind to the mitochondria. This should reduce the glucose consumption of cancer cells and, at the same time, induce programmed cell death. A decisive advantage of this method lies in its selectivity: it specifically targets cancer cells, while healthy cells that use a related enzyme (HK1) should remain unaffected. This means that healthy tissue remains unharmed.

    The analysts at Sphene Capital see long-term investment potential in Vidac Pharma. Their Monte Carlo analysis results in share values of between EUR 4.04 and EUR 5.40, while an economic profit model applied by them even forecasts values of up to EUR 6.50 per share. According to the analysts, Vidac Pharma's innovative research approach and advanced clinical studies make the Company an interesting candidate in the biotechnology sector.

    Patent dispute in the vaccine industry: Moderna sues BioNTech and Pfizer

    According to Reuters, the US biotechnology company Moderna has taken legal action against the German vaccine manufacturer BioNTech and its US partner Pfizer. Moderna accuses the two companies of infringing patents in the development of its COVID-19 vaccine.

    The lawsuits have been filed in both the US and Germany. Moderna alleges that BioNTech and Pfizer used technologies that Moderna had developed and patented years before the pandemic. The Company is seeking damages in an as yet unspecified amount.

    Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel emphasized that his company had done pioneering work in mRNA technology and had invested "billions of US dollars" in its development. The lawsuits aim to protect these investments and the Company's proprietary technology platform. This legal move follows a similar lawsuit filed by Tübingen-based CureVac against BioNTech in early July, which also involved alleged patent infringements related to mRNA technology. Perhaps it is also due to the fresh financial injection from the US government for the development of a vaccine against the H5N1 bird flu virus that Moderna now wants to protect itself once again against the competition.

    BioNTech has recently had to contend with further unpleasant incidents. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has imposed a partial ban on a cancer drug developed by the German biotechnology company BioNTech, which is being researched in cooperation with its Chinese partner MedLink Therapeutics. The reason for this is three deaths in the clinical trial that could be linked to the drug.

    The FDA decision came shortly after BioNTech researchers published their study results in a prestigious scientific journal Fachjournal. In this publication, the positive aspects of the drug were emphasized, but the fatalities were not mentioned. This development shows how risky clinical trials can be for pharmaceutical companies. On the other hand, how fatalities in clinical research are dealt with has much to do with the respective corporate culture. Instead of addressing precisely these setbacks in the journal with other researchers, they were concealed.

    GSK secures rights to CureVac's COVID-19 and flu vaccines for EUR 1.44 billion

    The pharma poker continues. The British pharmaceutical company GSK has reached an agreement with the German biotechnology company CureVac, securing the rights to CureVac's mRNA-based vaccine candidates against COVID-19 and influenza. The deal, announced this week, is worth up to EUR 1.44 billion. CureVac shares shot up 23% on the news. GSK shares, which have risen by just over 3% since the beginning of the year, were unchanged.

    Under the terms of the agreement, GSK will receive the rights to develop, manufacture, and market CureVac's vaccine candidates. The two companies have been collaborating since 2020 and currently have vaccine candidates for seasonal flu and COVID-19 in Phase II trials, as well as a candidate against avian flu in Phase I.

    CureVac will receive an upfront payment of EUR 400 million from GSK. In addition, up to EUR 1.05 billion in payments for development, approval, and sales milestones, as well as tiered royalties in the high single-digit to low double-digit percentage range, are planned.

    For CureVac, this deal represents a decisive turnaround, as the Company had failed to develop a COVID-19 vaccine during the pandemic. Only recently, the German government terminated a pandemic contract with CureVac and GSK, which led to further setbacks for the smaller company. Where there is joy, there is sorrow: In the wake of the new agreement with GSK, CureVac announces a restructuring, with a reduction of 30% of the workforce. The Company states that it will now focus its resources on high-value mRNA projects in oncology and other selected areas with significant unmet medical needs. It remains exciting for investors to see which form of therapy will prevail on the market in the long term.

    Vidac Pharma's innovative approaches to cancer therapy, based on the modification of cell metabolism, promise new possibilities in the treatment of skin cancer and other types of cancer. This could be of enormous significance given the rising cancer incidence worldwide. Analysts see promising potential for the development of the share. BioNTech is currently caught in the crossfire of bad news. On the one hand, the Company is facing a patent dispute with Moderna, which could affect the future of its mRNA technology. On the other hand, the partial halt of its cancer drug by the FDA due to fatalities is a setback. The billion-dollar partnership between GSK and CureVac shows that those written off may live longer. CureVac failed to develop a COVID-19 vaccine during the coronavirus pandemic and lost the contract with the German government. The deal with GSK could now drive the development of COVID-19 and flu vaccines. For investors, the events mean that the pharmaceutical industry is facing transformative changes. The latest reports on possible avian flu are also further signs that there appears to be some movement in the market.

    Conflict of interest

    Pursuant to §85 of the German Securities Trading Act (WpHG), we point out that Apaton Finance GmbH as well as partners, authors or employees of Apaton Finance GmbH (hereinafter referred to as "Relevant Persons") may hold shares or other financial instruments of the aforementioned companies in the future or may bet on rising or falling prices and thus a conflict of interest may arise in the future. The Relevant Persons reserve the right to buy or sell shares or other financial instruments of the Company at any time (hereinafter each a "Transaction"). Transactions may, under certain circumstances, influence the respective price of the shares or other financial instruments of the Company.

    In addition, Apaton Finance GmbH is active in the context of the preparation and publication of the reporting in paid contractual relationships.

    For this reason, there is a concrete conflict of interest.

    The above information on existing conflicts of interest applies to all types and forms of publication used by Apaton Finance GmbH for publications on companies.

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    Der Autor

    Juliane Zielonka

    Born in Bielefeld, she studied German, English and psychology. The emergence of the Internet in the early '90s led her from university to training in graphic design and marketing communications. After years of agency work in corporate branding, she switched to publishing and learned her editorial craft at Hubert Burda Media.

    About the author

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