Merck (+ 50% Sanofi Pasteur MSD)   
2012 Vaccine revenue: $5.27 billion

Merck's ($MRK) shining star is easily human papillomavirus vaccine Gardasil. The product far outweighs its competition--Cervarix from GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK)--having hit the market in 2006, three years before Cervarix. The product brought in $1.63 billion last year, compared to the $416.44 million Cervarix earned. Merck partnered with the GAVI Alliance to bring the HPV vaccine to the developing world. It made an offer to GAVI to provide Gardasil at $15 for the recommended three-dose regimen, a price that GAVI called as a good first offer.

EvaluatePharma projects Merck will hit $5.91 billion in vaccine revenue come 2018. And part of its growth strategy involves investing in new vaccine delivery technology. In October the company joined Australia's Vaxxas to research the startup's delivery patch that targets vaccine to immunological cells just below the skin's surface. Dubbed the Nanopatch, the tech offers a pain-free way to deliver vaccine safely and effectively through the skin. The delivery system uses tiny silicon devices to get vaccine just under the skin's surface. The company claims that the technology uses as little as 1/100th of the dose required by the typical needle and syringe.

Merck paid Vaxxas an undisclosed amount and funding to conduct research evaluating the potential use of the Nanopatch platform with a Merck vaccine candidate. Taking the "ouch" out of vaccine delivery could edge Merck ahead of some of the competition.

For more:
Merck, GSK partner with GAVI to provide low-cost HPV vaccine
Merck taps Vaxxas for Nanopatch vaccine delivery
Merck's Gardasil earns high safety marks

-- Alison Bryant