• By The Financial District

BioNTech Develops Vaccine To Combat Omicron Variant

The German vaccine manufacturer BioNTech has announced that it is developing an adapted vaccine as a "precautionary measure" while simultaneously carrying out research on the nature of the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus, Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa) reported.

Photo Insert: The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine

"To avoid wasting time, we are tackling these two tasks in parallel until the data is available and we have more information on whether the vaccine needs to be adapted or not," a BioNTech spokeswoman told dpa on Monday.

The two undertakings even partially coincide, according to BioNTech. "We immediately began studies on the Omicron variant," the company said. "We have also taken initial steps to develop a potential new vaccine, which overlap with the laboratory tests."

The laboratory tests are necessary to assess whether a new vaccine is necessary or not. The process involves serum from vaccinated individuals being exposed to the spike protein of the variant to examine how it reacts.

"The goal of this approach is to move quickly in development should a variant-specific vaccine be required," the company said.

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BioNTech said on Friday that the new variant was significantly different from previously observed variants because it had additional mutations on the spike protein. Data from laboratory tests now underway would soon indicate whether an adjustment to the vaccine would be needed if this variant spreads internationally, it said.

The company expects to have initial findings by the end of next week.

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BioNTech said it has for months been making preparations alongside its US partner Pfizer to adapt the existing vaccine within six weeks should a new variant of the virus quickly go global. The goal of the preparations was to deliver the first batches of any adapted vaccine within 100 days.

Vaccines based on the messenger molecule mRNA, such as those produced by BioNTech or Moderna, are quicker to produce than conventional vaccines as only the blueprint needs to be produced, rather than the antigen itself.

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