BioNTech uses COVID vaccination technology to develop an effective malaria vaccine | News from science and technology
The German pharmaceutical company behind one of the most successful COVID-19 vaccines wants to use the same technology to develop a malaria vaccine.
BioNTech, which developed the first coronavirus vaccine with US company Pfizer, plans to begin clinical trials for a “safe and highly effective malaria vaccine” by the end of next year.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there were an estimated 229 million cases of malaria worldwide in 2019, with about 409,000 deaths that year.
The WHO estimates that in 2019, 67% of deaths were among children under the age of five and 94% of cases and deaths occurred in Africa.
Biotech chief Ugur Sahin said: “We are already working on HIV and tuberculosis, and malaria is the third major indication (disease) with a high unmet medical need.
“Every year there is an incredibly high number of people infected, a high number of dying people, a particularly serious illness and high mortality rates among young children.”
However, Mr Sahin admitted that the project is at a very early stage and there is no guarantee of success.
He added that based on what it learned from developing an mRNA vaccine against COVID-19, the company believes it is “the perfect time to address this challenge.”
Malaria is a parasitic infection that is transmitted to victims by the bite of infected mosquitoes and eludes detection by the immune system, Sahin said. The aim is to develop a vaccine that makes the parasite visible and vulnerable.
There is currently only one malaria vaccine – Mosquirix – which took GlaxoSmithKline several years to develop, but is only 39% effective.
“The genome of Plasmodium, the parasite that causes malaria, is more complex than viruses,” warned Prakash Srinivasan, assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
Researchers at the Oxford Jenner Institute are also developing a potential new malaria vaccine that showed promise in a year-long study.
BioNTech also plans to test a vaccine against tuberculosis as well as nine vaccinations against nine different infectious diseases in 2020.