Pfizer goes shopping for new drugs

TEXT OF STORY

MARK AUSTIN THOMAS: Pfizer, the world's largest drug company, has gobbled up a tiny British biotech firm called PowderMed. Analysts think it might be a shrewd move because the small company is developing a new kind of vaccine. From the Health Desk at WGBH, Helen Palmer has more.


HELEN PALMER: PowderMed has developed a novel kind of vaccine. Tiny fragments of, say, flu DNA are attached to gold nanoparticles and injected through the skin.

Analysts say this is a promising investment for Pfizer.

Andrew Kasper is with the Pink Sheet, a pharmaceutical newsletter.

ANDREW KASPER: If you're Pfizer and you have a whole lot of cash on hand, it makes sense to invest in technologies and basic platforms like PowderMed has.

Kasper says Pfizer has few new drugs in development and PowderMed's technology could fill the gap.

For example, if a pandemic flu broke out, this technology could deliver plenty of vaccine much faster than traditional methods.

Kasper says traditional vaccines sell for $30 or $40. Newer vaccines like Merck's Gardasil for cervical cancer cost hundreds of dollars and are much more profitable.

The companies won't say how much Pfizer paid for PowderMed. Britain's Financial Times reckoned it was a relatively modest $400 million.

In Boston, I'm Helen Palmer for Marketplace.

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