Germany’s BioNTech and US pharma giant Pfizer, which partnered up to develop a Covid-19 vaccine in record time, said Wednesday they are working on a shingles vaccine using the same breakthrough mRNA technology.
The companies have signed a partnership deal and are aiming for clinical trials to start in the second half of 2022, they said in a joint statement.
“The collaboration aims to develop a new mRNA-based vaccine against shingles, leveraging the expertise and resources of both companies,” said Ugur Sahin, CEO and co-founder of BioNTech.
The messenger RNA method made its debut with the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine, which was the first jab against Covid to be approved in the West in late 2020.
The coronavirus jab developed by US rival Moderna also uses mRNA technology. Scientists believe mRNA vaccines, which provoke an immune response by delivering genetic molecules containing the code for key parts of a pathogen into human cells, could be a game-changer against many diseases.
They also take less time to develop than traditional vaccines. BioNTech’s Covid-19 shot was developed and approved by regulators in less than a year.
BioNTech is also working on an mRNA-based malaria vaccine backed by the World Health Organization, the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the European Union, with trials due to start in late 2022.
Shingles is a common disease around the world caused by reactivation of the same virus that causes chickenpox.
It can lead to extremely painful, disfiguring skin patches, and in rare cases to facial paralysis, deafness and blindness.
While there are currently approved vaccines for shingles, Pfizer and BioNTech said they wanted to develop an improved vaccine that potentially shows high efficacy and better tolerability.