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First COVID-19 vaccine candidate heads to trial
MAINZ, Germany and NEW YORK—BioNTech SE and Pfizer Inc. announced today that the German regulatory authority, the Paul-Ehrlich-Institut, has approved the Phase 1/2 clinical trial for BioNTech’s BNT162 vaccine program to prevent COVID-19 infection. BioNTech and Pfizer are jointly developing BNT162.
“We are pleased to have completed preclinical studies in Germany and will soon initiate this first-in-human trial ahead of our expectations. The speed with which we were able to move from the start of the program to trial initiation speaks to the high level of engagement from everyone involved,” noted Ugur Sahin, chief executive officer and co-founder of BioNTech.
The four vaccine candidates are the first candidates from BioNTech’s COVID-19-focused project “Lightspeed,” each representing different mRNA formats and target antigens. Two of the four vaccine candidates include a nucleoside modified mRNA, one includes a uridine-containing mRNA, and the fourth vaccine candidate utilizes self-amplifying mRNA.
Each mRNA format is combined with a lipid nanoparticle formulation. The larger spike sequence is included in two of the vaccine candidates, and the smaller optimized receptor binding domain (RBD) from the spike protein is used in the other two candidates. The RBD-based candidates contain the piece of the spike that is thought to be most important for eliciting antibodies that can inactivate the virus.
The dose escalation portion of the Phase 1/2 trial will include approximately 200 healthy subjects between the ages of 18 to 55, and will target a dose range of 1 µg to 100 µg — aiming to determine the optimal dose for further studies, as well as evaluate the safety and immunogenicity of the vaccine. The study will also evaluate the effects of repeated immunization for three of the four vaccine candidates which utilize uRNA or modRNA. Subjects with a higher risk for a severe COVID-19 infection will be included in the second part of the study.
The trial is the first clinical trial of a COVID-19 vaccine candidate to start in Germany, and is part of a global development program. Pfizer and BioNTech will also conduct trials for BNT162 in the U.S. upon regulatory approval, which is expected shortly.
“Pfizer and BioNTech’s partnership has mobilized our collective resources with extraordinary speed in the face of this worldwide challenge,” stated Albert Bourla, Pfizer chairman and chief executive officer. “Now that the work in Germany can commence, we are looking forward to and actively preparing for the potential start of this unique and robust clinical study program in the United States in the near future.”
During the clinical development stage, BioNTech will provide its partners clinical supply of the vaccine from its GMP-certified mRNA manufacturing facilities in Europe. BioNTech is also collaborating with Fosun Pharma to develop BNT162 in China, where the companies expect to conduct trials.