By Michael Bauer, dpa I Friday, December 23, 2022
BERLIN – German biotechnology company BioNTech, made famous for its work on the coronavirus vaccine, has started a trial for a malaria vaccine, it said on Friday.
BioNTech is testing the safety, tolerability and efficacy of the vaccine candidate, called BNT165b1, in a phase 1 trial that is expected to include about 60 healthy participants with no previous or current malaria infection.
The vaccine candidate will be studied at three different dose levels, at a range of sites in the US.
“The trial initiation is an important milestone in our efforts to help address diseases with high unmet medical need,” said chief medical officer and BioNTech co-founder, Özlem Türeci, in a statement.
“Our objective is to develop a vaccine that can help to prevent malaria and reduce mortality. Over the next months we aim to evaluate different antigens with scientific rigour to identify the optimal candidate,” he said.
Some 619,000 people worldwide died of malaria in 2021, slightly less than the approximately 625,000 the year before, according to estimations by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Cases of the disease rose to 247 million, but the rate of increase has slowed, the WHO said.
Some 95% of the illnesses and deaths were registered in Africa. The statement said the company is working on establishing manufacturing facilities on the African continent and other regions.
“The containers for the first BioNTainer for the African network are ready for the transport to Rwanda. If successfully developed and approved, an mRNA-based Malaria vaccine could be manufactured there,” Türeci said.
The company’s vaccines against Covid-19, which it makes with US pharma company Pfizer, could also be made there, as could mRNA vaccines against tuberculosis and malaria from 2024, for example, if they are approved.
So far, many children in Africa have already been vaccinated with the vaccine RTS,S made by British pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline.