Intercell erases fiscal-year profit target on weak vaccine sales

VIENNA — Austrian biotech company Intercell scrapped its full-year profit target after third-quarter revenue for its Ixiaro vaccine against Japanese encephalitis fell short of expectations.

Shares in the group declined by 2 percent to 26.30 euros on high volumes, but brokers including Deutsche Bank, BofA Merrill Lynch and Jefferies said the vaccine's peak sales forecast was still intact and Intercell's product pipeline was promising, according to the report by Reuters.

"We believe [Ixiaro] uptake may also be impacted by reduced travel and ability/willingness to pay for travelers' vaccines due to the recessionary environment," BofA Merrill Lynch analyst Brigitte de Lima said in a note to clients.

"While these factors may slow Ixiaro's uptake in early years, we do not expect them to affect the vaccine's market potential in the longer term," she added. The group said third-quarter revenue declined 38 percent on the quarter to 9.2 million euros ($13.7 million) as it sold only 2.7 million euros worth of the vaccine, Intercell’s first on the market, leading to a quarterly net loss of 14.7 million euros.

Intercell, which said in August it expected to turn in a full-year profit, scrapped that guidance because of the weak third-quarter sales and said it now expected a full-year loss.

Intercell, the only major independent vaccine maker left in Europe aside from Dutch Crucell, this year started to sell Ixiaro, distributed with Swiss pharma giant Novartis, its first product on the market.

The deal was expected to raise approximately 30 million euros in annual revenue for Intercell this year, an estimate now unlikely to be reached. Analysts expect peak sales of $250 million to $350 million.

Its next hopes include a vaccine patch against Traveler's Diarrhea that is in the last stage of clinical testing and for which Intercell hopes to strike a licensing deal with a major pharma group.

Intercell is also developing vaccines against hospital-acquired infections caused by bacteria including S. aureus and P. aeruginosa that are in earlier states of development.