Hopes of a coronavirus vaccine rise as three major biotech companies make progress
For the first time, the total number of reported coronavirus cases now exceeds 200,000 globally. As of the time of writing, 8,246 people have died of the deadly virus. In the midst of all the bad news, there is a ray of hope. Just in the last 48 hours, three major biotech companies, BioNTech, CureVac and Moderna, have been thrust into the spotlight for their promise to develop an immunization against COVID-19.
In addition to these three major companies, dozens of other companies and public labs around the world are working around the clock to develop a vaccine to prevent the spread of the flu-like virus. However, what is so unique about these three companies is that they all specialize in messenger RNA (mRNA) therapeutics. The mRNA molecules are used to instruct the body to produce its own immune response to fight a range of different diseases. This type of vaccine can potentially be developed and produced more quickly than traditional vaccines.
We wrote about Moderna two days ago. Based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Moderna is a U.S. based company working with the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH). It kicked off its first trial Monday in Seattle, Washington. Scientists at NIAID’s Vaccine Research Center (VRC) and Moderna were able to quickly develop mRNA-1273 because of prior studies of related coronaviruses that cause severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS).
The second company, BioNTech, is a German biotech company which recently announced two strategic partnerships to advance development of a vaccine. It formed a collaboration with Fosun Pharma to advance efforts in China, and with Pfizer to do the same outside China. “BioNTech appears best positioned in the COVID-19 race owing to its diversified mRNA platform, delivery information and manufacturing capacity,” analyst Berenberg said in a research note.
CureVac is an unlisted German company which aims to start testing an experimental vaccine on humans this summer. After reportedly getting caught in the political crossfire between Germany and the U.S., the European Commission pledged 80 million euros of financial support to help them get a product out in Europe.
On Monday, CureVac said it “is working on expanding its manufacturing capacities to be able to provide up to billions of doses for outbreak situations like Covid-19.”