BioNTech, Pfizer get first order for vaccine

UK has also secured a deal in principle for 60 million doses of the Valneva vaccine

Germany's BioNTech and US pharmaceuticals giant Pfizer have received their first order - from Britain - for a potential vaccine against the novel coronavirus that they are developing, the Mainz-based firm said on Monday.

The agreement is to supply 30 million doses of the BNT162 vaccine in 2020 and 2021, "subject to clinical success and regulatory approval," a statement said.

However, financial details of the deal were not given.

"This agreement is part of our commitment to address the pandemic by creating a global supply. We are in advanced discussions with multiple other government bodies and hope to announce additional supply agreements soon," BioNTech chief executive and co-founder Ugur Sahin, said.

First- and second-phase trials of four RNA vaccine candidates from BioNTech and Pfizer are currently underway in Germany and the United States. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently gave "fast-track designation" to two of those vaccines.

BioNTech and Pfizer have already released initial results from the ongoing trials and several experts reacted positively to the progress.

People participating in the clinical trials, aged between 18 and 55, developed antibodies against the virus, which causes Covid-19 lung disease, although it remains unclear whether these antibodies protect against infection. This is to be tested among a sample group of 30,000.

The companies said a lead vaccine candidate may be selected for phase 2b or phase 3 of testing later this month. This would allow an application for regulatory approval to be lodged in October this year, they added.

In the meantime, UK has also signed a deal in principle with French group Valneva for 60 million doses of its vaccine, with an option of 40 million more doses if it was proven to be safe, effective and suitable, the British business ministry announced.

"This new partnership with some of the world's foremost pharmaceutical and vaccine companies will ensure the UK has the best chance possible of securing a vaccine that protects those most at risk," Business Minister Alok Sharma said.

The deals follow a previously announced agreement with AstraZeneca for the firm to produce 100 million doses of its potential vaccine being developed in partnership with the University of Oxford.

More on this subject: Coronavirus

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