Late last year, Pfizer became the first company to report promising phase 3 clinical data, providing a much-awaited ray of hope to the pandemic-struck world. Earlier this year, the company raised its vaccine production target to a whopping 4 billion for 2022.
However, what did the pharmaceutical giant stand to lose had their bet on the mRNA vaccine not paid off?
Speaking at the USAIC Summit, the company's chairman and CEO, Albert Bourla said that Pfizer would have had to write off a staggering sum of $2-2.5 billion in such a case.
"It was a very big-ticket item to build and if the vaccine failed we would have had to write-off $2-2.5 billion. But it wouldn't take Pfizer down, we would not go bankrupt. But it was going to be very painful," he said.
Bourla also explained why the company did not accept federal funding.
"We did not take federal money because taking money from federal governments always come with strings attached. It is taxpayer money, so they have a responsibility and as a result, they want to be involved in decisions," he said, adding that the company did not need the money anyway.
Also Read: Pfizer's COVID vaccine journey: Expected 70% efficacy but were in for a surprise, says global CEO
The Pfizer CEO further credited the company's foresight when it came to earlier investments in digitisation for the accelerated work on the COVID vaccine.
"The fact that we started later than many others and finished earlier than anyone is not what you would expect from a big bureaucratic corporation like Pfizer but that was something that we were already preparing for," he said referring especially to Pfizer's focus on digitising R&D operations.
"I don't think we would be even near to the speed that we were able to conclude the clinical study if we would not have done all this investment in infrastructure in the year and a half before," he stressed, echoing the views of several experts and across the globe, including star philanthropist Bill Gates, who has maintained for years that steady investment into health research is the only way to prepare for and to battle a pandemic.
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(Edited by : Abhishek Jha)
First Published: IST