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Can Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline Beat Johnson & Johnson's RSV Vaccine?

By Keith Speights – Oct 17, 2021 at 2:31PM

Key Points

  • Johnson & Johnson reported positive results from a phase 2 study of its RSV vaccine candidate.
  • Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline could have a challenge in topping J&J's results with their RSV vaccines.

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J&J has set a high bar for its rivals.

There's a big battle shaping up with several large drugmakers developing respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) vaccines. Johnson & Johnson (JNJ -0.76%) recently announced positive results from a phase 2 study of its RSV vaccine candidate. In this Motley Fool Live video recorded on Oct. 6, 2021, Motley Fool contributors Keith Speights and Brian Orelli discuss whether or not J&J set a high bar for Pfizer (PFE -0.68%) and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK 1.46%) to top. 

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Keith Speights: Let's switch to a non-COVID development now. Johnson & Johnson announced on Sunday positive results from a fairly large-size phase 2 study of its experimental RSV vaccine. Do you think these results set a tough bar for Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline, both of which are also developing RSV vaccines?

Brian Orelli: This is a phase 2 study that had 5,800 adults over the age of 65. As you mentioned, it's a fairly large phase 2 study. There are phase 3 studies even larger, it's 23,000 people.

But in this phase 2 study, the vaccine was 80 percent effective at preventing infections that required medical attention, and then it was 70 percent effective at preventing symptomatic infection. Those would be infections that we can detect but that didn't require any medical attention.

Their phase 3 is currently ongoing. RSV has been notoriously hard to create vaccines against. There are some antibody treatments which seemed to work a little bit better because you're creating the antibodies outside the manufacturing laboratory, then just giving them to patients.

Typically, those are more given to newborns than they are older people. But this affects basically those two extremes. Everybody in the middle has strong enough immune systems that they can just deal with RSV. But newborns and older people can die from this disease.

Creating a vaccine that's 80 percent effective from having to require medical intervention I think definitely sets a high bar for Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline. Then there's actually quite a few companies behind them, including Moderna, which will also have to meet that bar, assuming it holds up between the phase 2 study and the phase 3 study.

Speights: I think this RSV vaccine race is an important one to watch. There's a big market opportunity there. No currently approved vaccines for RSV, so it'll be interesting to see who wins here.

Keith Speights owns shares of Pfizer. The Motley Fool recommends GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, and Moderna Inc. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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