Biontech quadruples its chances as it moves into the clinic


The 10% share price rise enjoyed by Biontech today might have less to do with the group delivering on its promise of starting clinical trials of a Covid-19 vaccine programme in April, and more with the number of candidates it is putting into human studies. The German group says it has gained permission in Germany to begin work on four programmes representing different mRNA formats and target antigens. This multiple-candidate approach is sensible given vaccine failure rates, and could allow for combinations; it also gives Biontech and its partner Pfizer more rolls of the dice when it comes to efficacy and safety. Biontech has also taken two different approaches to the Sars-CoV-2 spike protein, which the virus uses to enter cells. Two of its vaccines contain the large spike sequence, whereas the other two have a smaller receptor-binding domain from the spike protein. According to Biontech this optimised portion of the spike protein is thought to be the most important for generating antibodies against the virus. With a locked-down world hungry for signs of progress against Covid-19, Biontech's presenting of not one but four possible solutions was bound to be greeted by investor enthusiasm.

Biontech BNT162 vaccine programme
Candidate 1 Nucleoside-modified mRNA (modRNA)
Candidate 2 Nucleoside-modified mRNA (modRNA)
Candidate 3 Uridine-containing mRNA (uRNA)
Candidate 4 Self-amplifying mRNA (saRNA)
*Two vaccines will contain a large spike sequence, two the smaller receptor binding domain.

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