BioNTech bets on malaria vaccine

After developing a groundbreaking COVID-19 vaccine with Pfizer’s help, German lab BioNTech said Monday it wants to apply promising RNA messenger technology to malaria by launching vaccine trials next year.

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BioNTech intends to develop the first mRNA vaccine to prevent malaria, which will be produced on the African continent, the company said in a statement.

“The likelihood of success is high,” said Ugur Sakhin, director and co-founder of BioNTech, a pioneering laboratory for mRNA research.

The research, which began by the end of 2022, will be conducted in Africa and “other regions where malaria is widespread”, as well as in Germany through this program, supported by the World Health Organization, the European Union and the African Union Center for Diseases. Prevention and Control (Africa CDC).

Caused by a mosquito-borne parasite, malaria remains a serious infectious disease, especially in Africa and among young children, causing about 400,000 deaths a year.

There is currently no approved vaccine against malaria: “Over the course of several decades, the main vaccine developers have gradually abandoned research on this issue,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus lamented during a joint conference with BioNTech and the EU.

The University of Oxford PhD candidate, Matrix-M, nevertheless raised hope in April with an unrivaled 77% efficacy in Phase II studies. It can be approved within two years.

BioNtech is leveraging the lessons learned from the development of a COVID-19 vaccine in collaboration with US giant Pfizer.

Importantly, “We have created a very large vaccine safety database, into which more than a billion people have been injected with vaccines,” Shahin said.

BioNTech has also found solutions to transport vaccines in temperatures above -70 degrees Celsius, initially required in the supply chain.

BioNTech will fund the program first and go to “partners” for “large scale investments,” said Sirk Poetting, Chief Operating Officer of BioNTech.

In total, BioNTech is working on vaccines against nine infectious diseases and is working on 15 cancer treatment programs with results expected in the coming years.

The pair’s teams, formed by Ugur Sahin and Ozlem Tyureci, medical director, want to launch clinical trials of a tuberculosis vaccine in 2022.

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