By Ludwig Burger
FRANKFURT (Reuters) - BioNTech and Pfizer will boost manufacturing capacity of their COVID-19 vaccine to 2.5 billion doses by the end of 2021, BioNTech said on Tuesday, as it projected sales of nearly 10 billion euros ($11.7 billion) from the product this year.
Pfizer previously said the partners would likely produce between 2.3 billion and 2.4 billion doses in 2021.
BioNTech cited its new facility in the German city of Marburg and an expansion of the pair's network of third-party manufacturers and suppliers as drivers of the larger volumes.
"Additional measures and discussions with potential partners to further expand the manufacturing capacity and network are ongoing," it said.
As of last week more than 200 million doses of the product, known as BNT162b2 or Comirnaty, had been supplied to more than 65 countries, while signed orders for delivery in 2021 currently amount to 1.4 billion doses, said BioNTech.
But the boost in output reflected increased demand and "discussions for additional dose commitments are ongoing", it added.
Efforts to ramp up production at its Marburg facility, where it launched production in February after purchasing the site from Novartis last year, were making "remarkable progress", said chief executive and co-founder Ugur Sahin.
The EU's drugs regulator last week granted BioNTech approval for the use of COVID-19 vaccines produced at the facility, which has projected annual output of 1 billion doses.
Based on this order backlog, BioNTech said it expects 9.8 billion euros in revenues from the product this year, reflecting direct sales, sales to collaboration partners, milestone payments from partners and a share of gross profit in the partners' territories.
That compares to sales of 270.5 million euros made from Comirnaty last year by the company, which since its 2008 inception has primarily worked on cancer treatments, and with 482.3 million in group sales last year.
The group also said 2020 net income came in at 15.2 million euros, versus a loss of 179 million a year earlier.
"We see a tremendous opportunity to reinvest the proceeds from our COVID-19 vaccine into extending and accelerating the research and development of new vaccines and therapeutics," Sahin said in a statement, adding he would seek to harness the immune system.
BioNTech has previously said it had a 50-50 cost and profit share agreement with Pfizer, which excludes China, and a 35% to 40% gross profit share deal with Fosun Pharma in China.
In early February, Pfizer projected Comirnaty would contribute at least $15 billion to its 2021 group sales.
The company is also working on a third dose of its vaccine, following the standard two-shot regimen, to prolong protection against COVID-19 caused by new variants, with additional studies planned.
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