Pfizer and BioNTech to Develop mRNA Vaccine for COVID-19


One day after Germany’s BioNTech announced a plan to develop an mRNA vaccine candidate in China for the prevention of COVID-19 with Fosun Pharma, the company entered into an agreement with Pfizer to develop a vaccine for other areas in the world.

Late Monday, Pfizer and BioNTech SE agreed to a letter of intent regarding the co-development and distribution of a potential mRNA-based coronavirus vaccine. The two companies will focus 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. BNT162 is expected to enter the clinic in April. It is the first product candidate from Project Lightspeed, the company’s accelerated development program for COVID-19.

Pfizer said the focus on COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus, will begin immediately. The research will take place at facilities in the United States and Germany operated by both companies. Because of the immediate need for a treatment for COVID-19, which was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization last week, Pfizer and BioNTech said they will work out the financial terms of this deal over the course of the next few weeks. The joint project for a vaccine builds on a relationship the companies established in 2018 to jointly develop an mRNA-based influenza vaccine.

Mikael Dolsten, chief scientific officer and president of Worldwide Research, Development & Medical at Pfizer, said the ongoing relationship the pharma giant has with BioNTech provides the companies the “resiliency to mobilize our collective resources with extraordinary speed in the face of this worldwide challenge.” Dolsten said by pairing Pfizer’s commercial and regulatory capabilities with BioNTech’s mRNA vaccine technology and expertise, they are “reinforcing our commitment to do everything we can to combat this escalating pandemic, as quickly as possible.”

Ugur Sahin, co-founder and chief executive officer of BioNTech echoed the urgency of Dolsten.

“This is a global pandemic, which requires a global effort. In joining forces with our partner Pfizer, we believe we can accelerate our effort to bring a COVID-19 vaccine to people around the world who need it,” Sahin said in a statement.

BioNTech’s deal with Fosun also focuses on developing BNT162 as a vaccine for COVID-19 for use in China, the country of origin for the novel coronavirus. While the spread of the virus has slowed in China, diagnoses of COVID-19 are increasing by the hour across the globe. According to the Johns Hopkins coronavirus tracking map, there are now 183,425 confirmed global cases of COVID-19, with the bulk of them in China, Italy and Iran. Of those confirmed cases, 79,737 have recovered and 7,167 have died.

For Pfizer, the vaccine collaboration comes four days after the company issued a five-point plan calling on the biopharmaceutical industry to join the company in committing to unprecedented collaboration to combat COVID-19. The company called on the industry to share tools and insights, harness the power of its scientific brainpower, apply their collective expertise in drug development, offer manufacturing capabilities and improving future rapid response.

“Pfizer calls on all members of the innovation ecosystem – from large pharmaceutical companies to the smallest of biotech companies, from government agencies to academic institutions – to commit to work together in addressing this dire crisis. With our combined efforts we know that there is no health challenge that we cannot overcome,” Albert Bourla, Pfizer’s chairman and CEO said in a statement.

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