Bavarian Nordic, the only vaccine provider and hope against monkeypox

Bavarian Nordic, the only vaccine provider and hope against monkeypox
Credit: Belga

Danish Bavarian Nordic is experiencing a change to its fortunes. At the start if 2022, the Danish biotech company predicted an annual loss of €135-175 millions, but since the start of the monkeypox outbreak in May, the company's stocks have soared, De Standaard reported.

Bavarian Nordic has developed against smallpox under the names Jynneous (in the US) and Imvanex (in Europe). Bavarian Nordic never on purpose developed the smallpox vaccine to fight monkeypox, it has the potential to fight small-pox related virus.

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Interest in the vaccine was limited when monkeypox was limited to regions in Central and West Africa. And until four months ago, just six countries ordered stocks against the disease. but when the first monkeypox cases were reported in the UK four months ago, all available doses were bought up.

Soaring demand

On 19 May, the company announced it has received an order from an EU country to fight the virus. Less than a month later, the European Commission ordered 110,000 doses.

Bavarian Nordic is currently the only producer of a recognised monkeypox vaccine globally. There are two other smallpox vaccines, but these are only used to a limited extent due to potentially harmful side effect. Bavarian Nordic was able to limit the side effects by modifying a harmless virus that doesn't multiply in the body.

Due to soaring demand, Bavarian Nordic stocks have gone through the roof, with the company's stock market value almost tripling since May. During the coronavirus crisis, Germany's BioNTech experienced a similar moment. Bavarian Nordic has now doubled its turnover and expects to break even, rather than incurring losses.

Scaling up production

With success comes many challenges, as the company cannot keep up with demand. The vaccines have to grow in living cells, so they cannot scale up production easily.

Many countries have been frustrated with the slow production, including Belgium, which is struggling due to a shortage of monkeypox vaccines.

Use of limited doses is now being examined. On Tuesday, US health authorities allowed the vaccine to be injected in smaller quantities, and the same is being considered in Europe.

Bavarian Nordic can normally produce up to 30 million doses of a vaccine every year, but is making every effort to scale up production. It recently got approval to set up production in the US , and the company plans on working on the vaccine 24/7 after the WHO declared the monkeypox outbreak and 'international state of emergency'.

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