By Ludwig Burger
FRANKFURT (Reuters) - BioNTech <BNTX.O>, first in the race to disclose interim data from a large-scale trial showing a highly effective COVID-19 vaccine, is planning to price the two-shot regimen below "typical market rates" and would differentiate pricing between countries or regions.
Speaking at a Financial Times online event, the German biotech firm's strategy head Ryan Richardson said the price tag of the vaccine, which is co-developed with Pfizer <PFE.N> and which has yet to win regulatory approval, would reflect the financial risks that its private-sector investors have incurred.
"We've tried to pursue a balanced approach that recognises that innovation requires capital and investment so we plan to price our vaccine well below typical market rates reflecting the situation that we're in and with the goal to insure broad-based access around the world," Richardson said at the FT event.
"I expect there to be differential pricing in certain regions of the world," he added, declining to elaborate on the different price tags.
The vaccine was on Monday shown to be 90% effective, based on preliminary trial results, a key milestone in the war against a virus that has killed over a million people and battered the world's economy.
In July Pfizer had agreed with the U.S. government the supply of 100 million doses of its potential vaccine at a price of $39 for a two-dose immunisation, or $19.5 per dose, with the option to sell another 500 million doses under conditions to be negotiated separately.
Later on Tuesday, Richardson signalled that order size would impact the per-dose price in the developed world.
The European Commission will discuss on Wednesday the adoption of a supply contract with Pfizer and BioNTech. The bloc earlier this week said a contract for up to 300 million doses was close to being signed, without providing financial terms.
In the FT briefing, Richardson also said that the two partners' goal to supply 1.3 billion doses in 2021 would be the result of a ramping-up of efforts well into the second half of next year.
While there would be "significant supply" during the first half, scaling up output would continue throughout 2021.
BioNTech's strategy chief stressed that, even though the German group had received public-sector backing, the risks taken by its investors would merit some financial rewards from a future vaccine.
"We incurred considerable financial risk. We have raised capital in the capital market," he said.
Richard Hatchett, chief executive officer of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), said at the FT event that the Pfizer and BioNTech project was the only one among the 10 leading vaccine developers that had not received "substantial public sector financing".
In June the European Investment Bank, the EU's financial arm, awarded BioNTech 100 million euros in debt financing for its COVID-19 vaccine development and manufacturing.
Germany's research ministry in September granted BioNTech 375 million euros, subject to meeting certain milestones, also to ramp up vaccine development and production.
(Additional reporting by Matthias Blamont; Editing by Keith Weir)