BioNTech and Fosun to Develop mRNA Vaccine for COVID-19
The two companies will focus their resources on BioNTech’s BNT162, an mRNA-based vaccine candidate. The vaccine candidate, currently in the preclinical stage, leverages BioNTech’s proprietary mRNA platforms for infectious diseases. The companies intend to push the vaccine candidate into human trials by April of this year, subject to regulatory approval. BioNTech announced that BNT162 is the first product candidate from Project Lightspeed, the company’s accelerated development program for COVID-19.
Ugur Sahin, founder and chief executive officer of BioNTech, said the company feels a duty to use its technology and immunotherapy expertise to help address COVID-19, which was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization last week.
“We are working closely together with regulatory agencies and our existing collaborators in the infectious disease field, including Pfizer, to rapidly initiate trials in order to make a vaccine available to the public as quickly as possible worldwide,” Sahin said in a statement.
In addition to the vaccine candidate, Sahin said BioNTech is working on a novel therapeutic approach for patients who have already been infected with COVID-19. He said the company plans to disclose more on that effort in the coming weeks.
In the deal with Fosun, the two companies will work jointly on the development of BNT162 in China. The companies will collaborate to conduct clinical trials in China, using Fosun’s entrenched capabilities in that market to advance things along. If the vaccine gains approval, Fosun will commercialize the vaccine in China and BioNTech will retain full rights to develop and commercialize the vaccine in the rest of the world. BioNTech plans to manufacture the vaccine for clinical trials along with its partner Polymun and is preparing to ramp up production for global supply.
Sahin said the collaboration with Fosun is an important step in the global effort to prevent COVID-19 infection. While the number of cases of COVID-19 has slowed somewhat in China, according to reports, infection rates continue to rise across the globe, particularly in Iran and Italy. According to the Johns Hopkins coronavirus tracking map, there are now 169,387 confirmed global cases of COVID-19 and 6,513 deaths. The number of patients who have recovered from the virus stands at 77,257, as of this morning.
“Fosun Pharma shares our commitment to move rapidly to address the COVID-19 outbreak and brings deep development experience and an extensive network in the pharmaceutical market in China,” Sahin said in a statement.
Wu Yifang, president and CEO of Fosun, said it was important to collaborate to develop treatments for the pandemic.
“A potential pandemic requires a collective effort and both companies are passionate about contributing to the fight against the current coronavirus outbreak. We are excited to collaborate with BioNTech, one of the leading companies worldwide in the mRNA field. Our shared objective is to develop a vaccine against the coronavirus and to be able to rapidly manufacture a vaccine to turn the tide of COVID-19 infection,” Yifang said in a statement.
Under terms of the agreement, Fosun has made an equity investment of $50 million in BioNTech.
Other companies working on a vaccine for COVID-19 include Germany’s CureVac and Moderna.