BioNTech tackles malaria with an RNA vaccine

Posted on Jul 26, 2021, 6:57 PMUpdated Jul 26, 2021, 6:58 PM

The speed of development of vaccines against Covid-19 could well give a boost to research on other diseases, such as malaria. Eager to use its innovative technology on multiple fronts, BioNtech is embarking on the development of a vaccine against this scourge which is particularly rampant on the African continent. And the German laboratory logically intends to use messenger RNA, which has been proven against the coronavirus.

The successful development of such a serum, whose clinical trial of the first vaccine candidate is scheduled for the end of 2022, would mark a “historic turning point”, welcomed the World Health Organization (WHO). The WHO recorded in 2019 some 229 million cases of malaria in the world, causing 400,000 deaths per year, two thirds of which are African children under the age of five.

“Sustainable solutions”

In addition to the development of a “safe and effective” messenger RNA vaccine, the laboratory wishes to set up “sustainable solutions for the production and supply” of this serum on the African continent. An objective that can only be achieved with the help of several actors.

BioNtech is part of the “EradicateMalaria” initiative, led by the kENUP Foundation, to accelerate the eradication of malaria. A project supported by the WHO, the European Commission and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in particular.

“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,” explained Professor Doctor Ugur Sahin, CEO and co-founder of BioNTech at a press conference. “We are committed to bringing our innovations to those who need them most,” he continued.

“Our efforts will include cutting-edge research and innovation, significant investments in vaccine development, establishment of manufacturing facilities and the transfer of manufacturing expertise to production sites on the African continent and wherever this is necessary, ”said the professor, who has formalized in recent days an agreement with a South African laboratory for local production of the Covid vaccine for the continent.

Oxford as a rival

For the moment, no details on the amount of investments that will require this project have been revealed. To tell the truth, the budget is no longer a problem for society, since the “treasure” recovered in the fight against Covid allows it to invest this year no less than 850 million euros in research.

BioNTech believes that it will have to develop a good twenty vaccines to detect the most effective and launch the testing phase. The German biotech will have to face competition from the University of Oxford, which has developed a vaccine candidate that is 77% effective against contamination during a test carried out on 450 children in Burkina-Faso. The English product must now be tested on 4,800 children.

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