The company plans to use the mRNA platform it harnessed for its COVID-19 vaccine to develop the vaccine for malaria.
This content originally appeared on our sister site, ContagionLive.
BioNTech is developing an mRNA vaccine for malaria, dubbed the Malaria Project. The company is planning on developing multiple vaccine candidates featuring known Malaria targets such as the circumsporozoite protein (CSP), as well as new antigens discovered in the pre-clinical research phase. The company is looking to start its first clinical trial with its vaccine candidate by the end of next year.1
“The response to the pandemic has shown that science and innovation can transform people's lives when all key stakeholders work together towards a common goal. We are committed to bringing our innovations to those who need them most,” Ugur Sahin, MD, chief executive officer and co-founder, BioNTech, said in a statement. “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."
The company, which collaborated with Pfizer to develop its COVID-19 vaccine, hopes to use its mRNA vaccine experience to improve on the only currently approved malaria vaccine, RTS,S (Mosquirix; GlaxoSmithKline). RTS,S has about a 36% efficacy in children ages 5 months to 17 months when given with a booster.
The secondary goal for BioNTech is the development of sustainable vaccine production and supply solutions on the African continent. BioNTech is exploring possibilities to set up state-of-the-art mRNA manufacturing facilities, either with partners or on its own. The facilities are expected to manufacture various mRNA-based vaccines upon approval to ensure sustainable supply operations.
“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” Sahin added.
This project is in coordination with the ‘eradicateMalaria’ initiative, led by the kENUP Foundation, to accelerate the eradication of Malaria.
"I think this really is a historic moment," said Mark Suzman, chief executive officer, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said at a press conference.2 "We may look back at this moment and see it as a transformative pivot point in the fight against malaria."
In 2019, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), there were an estimated 229 million cases of malaria worldwide. The estimated number of malaria deaths stood at 409,000 in 2019.
Children aged under 5 years are the most vulnerable group affected by malaria. In 2019, they accounted for 67% (274,000) of all malaria deaths worldwide. The WHO African Region carries a disproportionately high share of the global malaria burden. In 2019, 94% of malaria cases and deaths worldwide were reported on the African continent.
1. BioNTech aims to move mRNA vaccines for malaria, TB into clinic next year. News release. BioNTech. July 26, 2021. https://www.firstwordpharma.com/node/1849032?tsid=28®ion_id=2
2. BioNTech, WHO hatch plan to bring mRNA vaccines to Africa. News release. BioNTech. July 26, 2021. https://www.biopharmadive.com/news/biontech-malaria-vaccine-africa-manufacturing/603913/