Pfizer partners up with BioNTech for $425m to pursue mRNA flu vaccines

pharmafile | August 16, 2018 | News story | Research and Development BioNTech, Pfizer, Vaccine, flu, influenza, pharma 

Pfizer has announced a partnership with German biotech firm BioNTech after signing a multi-year deal worth $425 million to develop new mRNA-based vaccines for the prevention of influenza.

BioNTech, which specialises in the development of therapies to treat cancer and infectious diseases, will receive upfront, equity and near-term research payments of $120 million under the terms of the deal, with up to $305 million to follow based on the achievement of various developmental, regulatory and commercialisation milestones.

mRNA, or messenger RNA, molecules are becoming increasingly popular in influenza treatment, with major firms including Sanofi, AstraZeneca and Eli Lilly stepping into the space with their own biotech partnerships. Such projects hope to create vaccines which can be rapidly adapted to the latest strains of the virus as they emerge – something which the current approach of producing in chicken eggs has failed to adequately address.

“Today’s agreement with Pfizer is one of a number of steps that we are taking to rapidly build a sustainable R&D presence in infectious disease, combining our deep understanding of the immune system to treat disease with the cutting-edge technologies and significant infrastructure that we have built-up over many years to develop immunotherapy treatments,” said Professor Dr Ugur Sahin, Co-Founder and CEO of BioNTech. “A significant presence in infectious disease supports our goal of building a global immunotherapy company that provides more effective and precise immune-mediated approaches for the prevention and treatment of serious illnesses, such as the prevention of flu and the treatment of cancer.”

Kathrin Jansen, Senior Vice President and Head of Pfizer’s Vaccine Research and Development Unit, added: “Innovative vaccine approaches are urgently needed to provide improved protection against seasonal flu, and to respond rapidly and in quantity to pandemic influenza threats. mRNA vaccines offer a novel approach to code for any protein or multiple proteins, and the potential to manufacture higher potency flu vaccines more rapidly and at a lower cost than contemporary flu vaccines. BioNTech is one of the industry leaders in mRNA technology and we are looking forward to working closely with them to help bring cutting-edge mRNA influenza vaccines to the market to improve people’s lives.”

Matt Fellows

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