When Altimmune delivered data from a Phase II extension study in March, it immediately outlined plans to seek a partner for the intranasal seasonal influenza vaccine candidate it tested in the trial.
Most of the year later, Altimmune is yet to find the development and commercialization partner it needs to take the vaccine candidate, called NasoVAX, into a late-phase trial. Altimmune thinks the wait for a partner may reflect the current state of the vaccine sector.
Talking to investors on a recent conference call to discuss Altimmune’s third quarter results, CEO, Vipin Garg, outlined what the company has learnt as it has worked to find a partner for NasoVAX.
Garg said, “Interest in seasonal influenza vaccines is being eclipsed by governmental interest in pandemic vaccine and commercial interest in so-called universal influenza vaccine.”
Altimmune is continuing to look for partners to take NasoVAX forward as a seasonal flu vaccine, in which context it could offer competition to AstraZeneca’s Fluenz. AstraZeneca’s vaccine has carved out a niche as the preferred seasonal flu vaccine for children in markets including the UK.
However, Altimmune is also responding to the partnering environment by broadening its development program to cover the assessment of the nasal technology in a pandemic vaccine. Garg said Altimmune will “assess the value to shareholders for NasoVAX as a pandemic vaccine.”
If Garg’s reading of the market is accurate, the pivot could move Altimmune into a part of the vaccine field that is of more interest to governments, potentially boosting its efforts to generate a return on the technology.
However, the move into pandemic vaccines, if it happens, will not free Altimmune from competition. AstraZeneca has already applied its intranasal vaccine technology to pandemic influenza strains to help deal with previous outbreaks.
Altimmune thinks the Phase II data suggest its technology is competitive in the context of seasonal influenza but its capacity to move NasoVAX forward in that indication is tied to its ability to persuade a partner to support the program.
At the time of the release of the Phase II extension data, Garg framed Altimmune’s desire to partner up to take NasoVAX forward as a consequence of its focus on building a pipeline of early to mid-stage assets.
The size of vaccine clinical development programs is prohibitive for smaller companies. AstraZeneca brought its intranasal vaccine Fluenz to market after testing it in more than 20,000 people across seven influenza seasons.