Can prepare vaccine against mutated virus in 6 weeks: BioNTech
Ugur Sahin, the co-founder and CEO of the German drugmaker BioNTech, displayed confidence that their COVID-19 vaccine can work against the new strain of the coronavirus. Sahin further said that they can have a vaccine ready specific to the mutated strain within six weeks if needed. BioNTech and US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer's vaccine has been authorized for use in over 45 countries.
"Scientifically, it is highly likely that the immune response by this vaccine also can deal with the new virus variant," Sahin was quoted as saying by Agence France-Presse. If required, BioNTech can "directly start to engineer a vaccine which completely mimics this new mutation," highlighting the advantage of the mRNA technology. "We could be able to provide a new vaccine technically within six weeks."
Noting that the British variant has nine mutations, Sahin said he had "scientific confidence" that the existing vaccine could work against the mutated virus. The vaccine "contains more than 1,000 amino acids, and only nine of them have changed, so that means 99% of the protein is still the same." BioNTech is running tests on the variant and results are expected in two weeks.
The United Kingdom has reported a new strain of the coronavirus, which authorities say is as much as 70% more infectious. Experts argue that more studies are needed to see if the claim of the new strain being more transmissible holds water. Even as countries imposed travel restrictions with the UK, Australia, Denmark, Italy, South Africa, etc., have reported cases involving the mutated strain.
To recall, Pfizer-BioNTech's vaccine, called BNT162b2, uses messenger RNA (mRNA) technology, which had never been used for an approved vaccine. Late-stage trial data found the two-dose vaccine to be 95% effective. The efficacy was consistent across age, race, and ethnicity demographics, the companies said. The vaccine has been approved for emergency use in over 45 countries including the UK, the United States, the European Union, etc.