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BioNTech begins trials for mRNA malaria vaccine


HQ Team

December 23, 2022: BioNTech has begun early-stage human trials for a malaria vaccine based on the mRNA technique used to treat Covid-19.

The Phase 1 trial, to be conducted in the United States,  will have 60 volunteers with no history of malaria. The first patient was dosed on Dec. 21, Chief Executive Officer Ugur Sahin said in an interview. 

The Mainz, Germany-based company plans to evaluate the vaccine candidate at three-dose levels. BioNTech’s shot will be designed to target several potential antigens in order to “identify the optimal candidate,” Chief Medical Officer Ozlem Tureci said in a statement.

The vaccine is known as BNT165b1, and is a part of BioNTech’s malaria project, which will also be manufacturing the vaccine in Africa.

The mosquito-borne disease kills over 600,000 each year, most of them children in Africa.

Last year, the World Health Organisation gave the historic go-ahead for the first vaccine – developed by pharmaceutical giant GSK – to be used in Africa. Now, scientists at the University of Oxford have announced another groundbreaking malaria vaccine.

The WHO-approved vaccine, known as RTS,S has around 70% efficacy. Also, surprisingly there are some claims of the vaccine not being cost-effective and logistics problems in its dispensation as it requires four doses for it to be effective.

The Oxford scientists say their vaccine is cheap, and they already have a deal to manufacture more than 100 million doses yearly. The world’s largest vaccine manufacturer – the Serum Institute of India, has been chosen to manufacture the vaccine.

BioNTech’s malaria vaccine effort is based on its mRNA technology, which was employed during the pandemic to quickly develop COVID-19 vaccines by prompting the human body to make a protein that is part of the pathogen, triggering an immune response. BioNTech’s planned vaccine production site in Kigali, Rwanda, will help produce the malaria shot, Sahin said. 

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