BioNTech’s chief executive has announced he is confident the coronavirus vaccine his company pioneered with Pfizer will work against a new dominant variant in India, where health officials are recording hundreds of thousands of new COVID-19 infections daily, the Financial Times reported.
Ugur Sahin, who founded the German biotech with his wife Ozlem Tureci, said BioNTech had developed the vaccine with variants in mind.
“[It] will hold, I’m confident of that,” he said, noting that BioNTech’s early experience developing cancer therapies meant that the company had been prepared for the virus to mutate.
“We come out of cancer medicine and [there] the tumor is constantly changing and mutating . . . So we have experience with these escape mechanisms,” he said, at an online meeting with reporters.
BioNTech says it has investigated over 30 variants of the virus, including the latest mutation from India. That new variant, known as B.1.617, “has mutations that we have already studied and against which our vaccine is effective”, Sahin said, adding that it left him confident the vaccine would still work.
BioNTech and Pfizer were the first to bring a coronavirus jab to market and the first to get regulatory approval for a vaccine using messenger RNA technology, though it is not yet authorized for use in India.
Sahin, who described his dose as a “bulwark” against the spread of the coronavirus, said that even if a new variant evolved that had an impact on efficacy, the mRNA technology behind the vaccine would make it possible to “reinforce the bulwark”.