German immunotherapy firm BioNTech has announced the launch of the Malaria Project, which seeks to develop the first mRNA vaccine for malaria. The project is backed by the World Health Organization (WHO) and Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), and clinical trials are set to commence by the end of 2022.
Part of the ‘eradicateMalaria’ initiative led by the Maltese kENUP Foundation, the project’s second goal is to establish sustainable mRNA vaccine production facilities for the prevention of various diseases across Africa. BioNTech has pioneered the development of the mRNA vaccine technology, joining forces with US pharma giant Pfizer to produce a vaccine for Covid-19.
“Together with our partners, we will do whatever it takes to develop a safe and effective mRNA-based malaria vaccine that will prevent the disease, reduce mortality and ensure a sustainable solution for the African continent and other regions affected by this disease,” said Uğur Şahin, chief executive and co-founder of BioNTech, in a press release.
Before clinical trials receive the go-ahead, a vaccine-selection process will occur in which several known antigens — including the well-known circumsporozoite protein and some newly discovered malaria targets — are examined and then chosen for clinical development.
In an effort to increase global access to immunotherapies, the company’s plans to establish sustainable vaccine supply chains in Africa are underway. Co-located with the technology transfer hubs currently under construction by the WHO, and in alignment with the Africa CDC’s manufacturing strategy, the facilities’ purpose will be to provide low- and middle-income nations with the means for end-to-end vaccine production.
“The response to the pandemic has shown that science and innovation can transform people’s lives when all key stakeholders work together towards a common goal. We are committed to bringing our innovations to those who need them most,” said Mr Şahin.
fDi Markets has tracked three investment projects worth an estimated $153m by BioNTech since 2015. In May 2021, the company announced plans to build headquarters for the Asia-Pacific region in Singapore, with operations expected to begin in 2023.