BioNTech set to develop first mRNA malaria vaccine

pharmafile | July 27, 2021 | News story | Manufacturing and Production, Research and Development  

Buliding on the success of its COVID-19 vaccine, BioNTech has announced the development of the first mRNA vaccine against malaria, aiming to start clinical testing by the end on 2022.

The German company developed the COVID-19 vaccine in 10 months with tis partner Pfizer, based on mRNA technology, and stated on Monday that it is exploring vaccine production in Africa in a bid to improve manufacturing capabilities in the continent.

BioNTech Chief Executive and co-founder, Ugur Sahin, said: “The response to the pandemic has shown that science and innovation can transform people’s lives when all key stakeholders work together towards a common goal.”

Malaria infects millions of people each year, killing more than 400,000, most being babies and young children in the poorest areas in Africa. It is a complex infection caused by a parasite that evades recognition by the immune system.

Messenger RNA vaccines prompt the human body to make a protein that is part of the pathogen, triggering an immune response. They are also quicker to develop than traditional vaccines and can be adapted relatively easily.

The first and only available malaria vaccine was made by GSK, Mosquirix, was developed over many years of clinical trials and is only 30% effective against the disease.

BioNTech said it will assess multiple vaccine candidates that target the circumsporozoite protein (CSP), as well as new antigens discovered in pre-clinical research and select the most promising for a clinical trial due to start by the end of 2022.

The company is also scouting for suitable mRNA vaccine production sites in Africa, either with partners or on its own, and will receive support from the European Commission, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and other organisations.

BioNTech Chief Operating Officer Sierk Poetting said the company would fund the research and initial production of the vaccine itself and turn to its partners for support with large-scale trials, as well as setting up infrastructure, such as fill and finish sites and providing local training.

Kat Jenkins

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