GSK has established a strategic partnership with Chongqing Zhifei Biological Products, a major player in the vaccine industry, to facilitate the distribution of shingles vaccine Shingrix in China. This collaboration may set the stage for a similar agreement regarding GSK’s novel respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) vaccine, as indicated by GSK.
Regarding Shingrix, Zhifei has committed to a substantial investment of £2.5 billion ($3.05 billion) for a specified vaccine volume and exclusive distribution rights for the shingles shot in China, covering 2024 through 2026. The agreement commences on January 1 of the upcoming year, with the potential for extension if both parties concur.
This partnership was revealed approximately seven weeks after GSK unveiled phase 4 trial data demonstrating Shingrix’s remarkable efficacy of 100% in safeguarding adults aged 50 and above from shingles. The extensive ZOSTER-076 study, conducted in China and encompassing nearly 6,000 participants, substantiated this efficacy.
Since its introduction to the Chinese market in 2020, Shingrix sales have experienced rapid growth. Nevertheless, growth has been constrained, given GSK’s ability to provide it at only about 9,000 locations, as highlighted by GSK’s commercial officer, Luke Miels, during a press briefing. The collaboration with Zhifei is expected to expedite access substantially, given Zhifei’s extensive network of approximately 30,000 vaccination points across China. The structure of vaccine delivery in China distinguishes it from most other countries, necessitating administration exclusively at designated vaccination points, elucidated Miels.
GSK reported global Shingrix sales of £1.71 billion ($2.1 billion) in the initial half of the year. The company anticipates that increased sales in China will offset the projected decrease in demand for the shot in the United States and Europe. A year ago, GSK articulated its ambition to double Shingrix sales in China by 2025.
Zhifei boasts a track record of successful sales driving, amassing $4.75 billion in vaccine revenue in 2021, largely attributed to its extensive partnership with Merck in marketing the HPV vaccine, Gardasil, for over a decade. Miels expressed admiration for the Merck-Zhifei collaboration and emphasized GSK’s intention to replicate this success with Shingrix.
Favorable results observed in Shingrix sales in China could pave the way for Zhifei to market the RSV vaccine, Arexvy. GSK holds the right of first refusal to be the exclusive partner for the co-development and commercialization of Arexvy, pending approval in China. Miels highlighted the potential similarity in eligible patient groups for Arexvy, targeting individuals aged 50 and above, and noted Zhifei’s significant advantage in sales representation with approximately 10 times more sales representatives than GSK’s current headcount of 500 in China.