Biopharmaceutical New Technologies (BioNTech), a Turkish-founded pharmaceutical company in Germany, has signed contracts with Chinese Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceuticals and U.S.-based medical giant Pfizer to co-develop a potential vaccine for the novel coronavirus using its own mRNA-based drug development platform.
Owned by Turkish scientist professor Uğur Şahin, BioNTech struck its collaboration deal with Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical Monday over its rights in China to its experimental BNT 162 coronavirus vaccine, aiming to start testing on humans beginning in late April. Fosun Pharma will reportedly pay the company $85 million upfront for research and development purposes and $50 million for a 0.7% stake in BioNTech’s stocks. The two companies will share future gross profits from the sale of the vaccine in China.
A day later, BioNTech and Pfizer said they would also start their collaboration immediately and had signed a letter of intent for the vaccine’s distribution outside China.
The companies said they will finalize financial terms and details regarding development, manufacturing and potential commercialization of the vaccine over the next few weeks. Pfizer and BioNTech will use research and development sites from both companies, including in the United States and Germany.
Pfizer already collaborates with BioNTech to develop mRNA-based vaccines for influenza.
“We feel a duty to exploit our full technology and immunotherapy expertise to help address the COVID-19 pandemic emergency. We are working closely together with regulatory agencies and our existing collaborators in the infectious disease field, including Pfizer, to rapidly initiate trials in order to make a vaccine available to the public as quickly as possible worldwide. In addition, we are working on a novel therapeutics approach for those patients who have already been infected – we plan to disclose more on that effort in the coming weeks,” said Şahin, CEO of BioNTech, in a statement Monday.
Founded in 2008, BioNTech pioneers novel and individualized therapies for cancer and other serious diseases.
Reuters reported on Sunday that the German government was trying to stop the U.S. administration from persuading CureVac, another German drugmaker working on an experimental vaccine for the coronavirus, to move its research to the United States.
The race is on to develop an immunization, which is seen as the most effective tool to halt the global spread of the pathogen.
The coronavirus outbreak has so far infected over 200,000 people globally and killed more than 8,000. Several bans have been imposed on mass gatherings such as sporting, cultural and religious events to combat the disease worldwide.