Vaccine maker BioNTech is looking to replicate the success of its Pfizer-partnered mRNA-based COVID-19 jab as it sets its sights on the development of a ‘highly effective’ malaria vaccine.
The biotech company’s approach is two-pronged – focused on both the development of a vaccine candidate for malaria and to boost mRNA manufacturing capabilities on the African continent.
Under its vaccine development objective, BioNTech will assess multiple vaccine candidates using its mRNA technology, with plans to address known malaria targets including the circumsporozoite protein (CSP) and new antigens discovered in the pre-clinical research stage.
Following the pre-clinical phase, BioNTech will select the ‘most promising’ mRNA vaccine candidates for further clinical development, aiming to commence a clinical trial for the first vaccine candidate for the end of 2022.
In addition, BioNTech will develop sustainable vaccine production and supply solutions on the African continent – exploring possibilities to construct mRNA manufacturing facilities either with partners or on its own.
The facilities are expected to manufacture a number of mRNA-based vaccines upon approval, with BioNTech planning to co-locate its African manufacturing capabilities with technology transfer hubs already under development by the World Health Organization (WHO), which aligns with the African manufacturing strategy launched by the Africa CDC.
The WHO, the European Commission (EC) and other organisations have been involved in the early stages of planning for BioNTech’s malaria project.
These organisations, according to BioNTech, have offered support to identify and set up the necessary infrastructure needed for the project.
BioNTech will also collaborate with the African Union and the Africa CDC under the partnership for the African Vaccine Manufacturing programme to ensure that enabling factors – including regulatory alignment, policy transfer and country coordination – are established to ensure the vaccine is delivered to the citizens of the African Union.
The project is also part of the kENUP Foundation-led ‘eradicate malaria’ initiative, aiming to accelerate the eradication of the infectious disease.
“We are more than grateful to be part of the joint efforts of the Eradicate Malaria project. Together with our partners, we will do whatever it takes to develop a safe and effective mRNA-based malaria vaccine that will prevent the disease, reduce mortality and ensure a sustainable solution for the African continent and other regions affected by this disease,” said Ugur Sahin, CEO and co-founder of BioNTech.
“Our efforts will include cutting-edge research and innovation, significant investments in vaccine development, the establishment of manufacturing facilities and the transfer of manufacturing expertise to production sites on the African continent and wherever else it is needed,” he added.