COVID News: Pfizer-BioNTech Vaccine Effective Against Brazilian Variant and More


There was a little bit of positive COVID-19 news to report today. Here’s a look.

Pfizer-BioNTech Vaccine Neutralizes Brazilian COVID-19 Variant and More

A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine reported that in laboratory studies, the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine was effective at neutralizing the Brazilian variant.

Three mutations specifically have concerned researchers and public health officials, the U.K., South African and Brazilian. All appear to be more contagious than the original Wuhan wildtype strain, but there are worries that the vaccines and antibody treatments may not be effective. Most studies to date suggest that the vaccines and antibody therapies are effective against these variants, just not as effective as they are against the Wuhan strain.

This study indicated that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was approximately equivalent against the P.1 Brazilian variant as it was against the Wuhan strain. The research was conducted by the companies and the University of Texas Medical Branch.

Recently published research has also found that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is effective against the U.K. and South African variants, although least effective against the South African variant. Although Pfizer believes its current vaccine is highly likely to protect against the South African variant, it is working to evaluate a third booster dose as well as a modified version specifically against the variant, should it be necessary.

The research tested serum samples acquired from people either two or four weeks after receiving their second shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. Those samples were then tested against viruses that had been engineered with mutations from the three virus variants.

The authors of the study wrote, “Ultimately, conclusions about vaccine-mediated protection that are extrapolated from neutralization or T-cell data must be validated by real-world evidence collected in regions where the SARS-CoV-2 variants are circulating.”

Molecular Partners and Novartis COVID-19 Antiviral Ensovipeb Positive in Phase I

Molecular Partners AG and Novartis announced initial data from their ongoing Phase I trial of their tri-specific COVID-19 antiviral drug, ensovibep, in healthy volunteers. In the study, healthy volunteers were randomized 3:1 to receive an infusion of ensovibep or placebo, respectively. In both cohorts of two different doses of the drug, 3m or 9mg per kilogram body weight, the drug was observed to be safe and well tolerated with no significant adverse events.

The drug is designed to target multiple different sites on the SARS-CoV-2 virus simultaneously. It is formatted with a half-life extending DARPin domain that binds to human serum albumin (HSA) to support long-acting activity.

“We are excited to see the predictable exposure of ensovibep in this study,” said Nicolis Leupin, chief medical officer of Molecular Pratners. “These data, coupled with the strong activity demonstrated preclinically against the major variants of SARS-CoV-2 in circulation, make it imperative that we move as quickly as possible to treating patients with our antiviral.”

He added, “These data now show that administration of a DARPin candidate at these therapeutically relevant dose levels is possible with full consideration of safety and tolerability. We look forward to move rapidly to initiate our Phase II/III global registration study with our partner Novartis, early in the second quarter of this year.”

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