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BioNTech confident of making COVID-19 vaccine against UK mutation virus in six weeks

BusinessToday.In     December 22, 2020

German biotechnology company BioNTech Chief Executive Ugur Sahin has expressed confidence that the COVID-19 vaccine co-developed by his company would be effective against the mutated strain detected in Britain. If needed, the company could develop a new vaccine technically within six weeks to deal with this new mutated virus.

"Scientifically, it is highly likely that the immune response by this vaccine also can deal with the new virus variant," said Sahin in a press conference after the European Union gave emergency authorisation to the vaccine, co-developed with Pfizer, which will be rolled out after Christmas.  

But if needed, "in principle the beauty of the messenger technology is that we can directly start to engineer a vaccine which completely mimics this new mutation -- we could be able to provide a new vaccine technically within six weeks," Sahin added.

Also Read: No evidence new COVID-19 mutant causes severe disease, mortality: WHO

Countries across the globe, including India, have suspended flights to and from Britain on Monday to contain a mutation to the coronavirus. The Ministry of Civil Aviation on Monday said, "Considering the prevailing situation in the UK, Indian govt has decided that all flights originating from the UK to India shall be temporarily suspended till 11:59 pm, 31st December. This suspension to start w.e.f. 11.59 pm, 22nd December."  

On Monday, Pfizer and BioNTech's vaccine candidate secured a conditional marketing authorisation (CMA) from the European Commission (EC) for active immunisation to prevent COVID-19 caused by SARS-CoV-2 virus, in individuals 16 years of age and older. The CMA is valid in all 27 member states of the European Union (EU). In November 2020, Pfizer and BioNTech reached an agreement with the EC to supply 200 million doses of a vaccine for COVID-19 in 2020 and 2021, with the option for up to 100 million additional doses, subject to agreement of the parties. Delivery will begin immediately and occur in stages throughout 2020 and 2021 to ensure an equitable allocation of vaccines according to contract terms across the EU. 

Also Read: New COVID-19 mutant in UK: Virus strain may infect children more easily, scientists fear

With this EU authorisation in all 27 EU member states, the COVID-19 vaccine has now been granted a emergency use authorisation in a total of more than 40 countries. Regulatory reviews are underway in several countries, with more authorisations anticipated in the coming weeks.

Also Read: New coronavirus strain in the UK not 'out of control', says WHO

The ongoing Phase 3 clinical trial of BNT162b2, which is based on BioNTech's proprietary mRNA technology, has enrolled more than 44,000 participants, the vast majority of whom have received their second dose. The Phase 3 trial is designed as a 1:1 vaccine candidate to placebo, randomised, observer-blinded study to obtain safety, immune response, and efficacy data needed for regulatory review.

By Chitranjan Kumar

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