Pfizer and BioNTech to Co-Develop Potential COVID-19 Vaccine

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Two pharmaceutical companies, Pfizer Inc and Biopharmaceutical New Technologies (BioNtech) have announced plans to work together to co-develop a potential vaccine aimed at preventing Coronavirus (COVID-19) infection.

Pfizer is an American multinational pharmaceutical corporation, while BioNtech is a German immunotherapy company specializing in cancer medicine and other life-threatening diseases.

The companies signed the Material Transfer and Collaboration Agreement on March 18, 2020, thereby kick-starting an intense process of working together to find a vaccine that could put an end to the pandemic.

The collaboration aims to accelerate global development of mRNA-based vaccine candidate BNT162, thereby leveraging expertise and resources of both companies.                                                                    

A joint press statement issued by the two companies said: “The collaboration aims to accelerate development of BioNTech’s potential first-in-class COVID-19 mRNA vaccine program, BNT162, which is expected to enter clinical testing by the end of April 2020.”

 The rapid advancement of this collaboration builds on the research and development collaboration into which Pfizer and BioNTech entered in 2018 to develop mRNA-based vaccines for prevention of influenza. 

“We are proud that our ongoing, successful relationship with BioNTech gives our companies the resiliency to mobilize our collective resources with extraordinary speed in the face of this worldwide challenge,” said Mikael Dolsten, Chief Scientific Officer and President, Worldwide Research, Development & Medical, Pfizer.

 “We believe that by pairing Pfizer’s development, regulatory and commercial capabilities with BioNTech’s mRNA vaccine technology and expertise as one of the industry leaders, we are reinforcing our commitment to do everything we can to combat this escalating pandemic, as quickly as possible.” 

“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,” said Ugur Sahin, Co-Founder and CEO of BioNTech.

The companies expect to utilize multiple research and development sites from both companies, including in the United States and Germany, to house the activities identified by the collaboration agreement.

The companies will begin collaborating immediately, the press statement said. “They will finalize details of the agreement regarding financial terms, and all activities related to development, manufacturing and potential commercialization over the next few weeks,” it added.  

On March 13, 2020, Pfizer issued a five-point plan calling on the biopharmaceutical industry to join the company in committing to unprecedented collaboration to combat COVID-19.

So far, basic preventative measures, such as good hygience and isolation by individuals and communities remain the most powerful tool to prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

Nearly 179,000 people around the world have been infected with the coronavirus and more 7,000 people have died.

In Africa, more than 600 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in 34 countries in Africa as of 19 March, 2020 compared with 147 cases one week ago. Although the region has seen a significant increase in confirmed cases recently, there are still fewer cases than in other parts of the world.

WHO has been supporting governments with early detection by providing COVID-19 testing kits to countries in Africa, training lab technicians, and strengthening surveillance in communities. Forty-five countries in Africa can now test for COVID-19: at the start of the outbreak only two could do so. WHO is also providing remote support to affected countries on the use of electronic data tools, so national health authorities can better understand the outbreak in their countries. Personal protective equipment has been shipped to 24 countries, and a second shipment is being prepared for countries with confirmed cases.

WHO is helping local authorities craft radio messaging and TV spots to inform the public about the risks of COVID-19 and what measures should be taken.  WHO is also conducting rumour management in all affected countries, and is guiding countries on setting up call-centres and hotlines to ensure the public is informed. 

Compiled by Carol Natukunda

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