BioNTech and CEPI to advance mRNA mpox vaccine development

BioNTech SE and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) have formed a strategic partnership to advance mRNA-based vaccine candidates with the development of BNT166 for the prevention of mpox (formerly monkeypox, caused by a member of the Orthopoxvirus viral family), an infectious disease that can lead to severe, life-threatening complications.

Mpox gained global attention in May 2022 with an increasing number of cases that then developed into an international outbreak. CEPI will provide funding of up to $90 million to support the development of mRNA-based vaccine candidates.

The mpox vaccine program BNT166 is part of BioNTech’s efforts to develop novel prophylactic vaccines for a range of infectious diseases with a high medical need, including indications that are disproportionally prevalent in lower-income countries. Since the eradication of smallpox in 1980, the global population-level immunity against the Orthopoxvirus viral family, including mpox, has been waning. BioNTech is aiming to develop a prophylactic mRNA-based mpox vaccine with a favorable safety profile that can be manufactured at scale.

The strategic partnership between BioNTech and CEPI is aiming to contribute to CEPI’s 100 Days Mission, a global goal to accelerate development of well-tolerated and effective vaccines against a potential future pandemic virus so that a vaccine can be ready for regulatory authorization and manufacturing at scale within 100 days of recognition of a pandemic pathogen. This mission is spearheaded by CEPI and embraced by the G7, G20, and industry leaders.

The partnership between BioNTech and CEPI could help accelerate responses to future outbreaks caused by viruses of the Orthopoxvirus viral family in several ways. For example, advancing the development of an mRNA-based mpox vaccine candidate, if successfully approved and authorized, could help provide larger supplies of vaccines for use against future mpox outbreaks. In addition, the data generated could contribute to the rapid development of mRNA-based vaccines against future outbreaks caused by Orthopoxviruses.

“Mpox can cause severe complications, particularly in children and pregnant women as well as in immunocompromised individuals. The global outbreak, which was declared a public health emergency of international concern, underlines the need for a highly effective, well-tolerated, and accessible mpox vaccine. We initiated our BNT166 program in May 2022 to help address this need,” said Prof. Ugur Sahin, M.D., CEO and co-founder of BioNTech. “We believe our scientific approach as well as our mRNA technology have the potential to significantly contribute to deliver on CEPI’s 100 Days Mission.”

Richard Hatchett, M.D., Chief Executive Officer of CEPI, said: “The 100 Days Mission aims to accelerate the development of a vaccine against a novel virus with pandemic potential to just 100 days, and BioNTech’s world-class scientists, technology and facilities can make a vital contribution. Achieving this mission, and potentially preventing the next pandemic, will require gathering a wealth of knowledge and data about the performance of the latest vaccine platforms, like mRNA, which can enable rapid responses to emerging infectious threats across a broad range of viruses.

“Our work on mpox could broaden the portfolio of vaccines available against this potentially deadly disease, while building our understanding of how mRNA technology performs against Orthopoxviruses, a family of viruses that have long afflicted humankind and remain an ongoing threat today.”

The BNT166 vaccine candidates encode surface antigens that are expressed in the two infectious forms of the monkeypox virus (MPXV) to efficiently fight virus replication and infectivity. The clinical trial (NCT05988203) will evaluate the safety, tolerability, reactogenicity and immunogenicity of two mRNA-based multivalent vaccine candidates for active immunization against mpox. The Phase 1/2 trial aims to enroll 196 healthy participants with and without prior history of known or suspected smallpox vaccination (vaccinia-naive participants).

BNT166 is part of BioNTech’s infectious disease programs aiming to provide equitable access to effective and well-tolerated vaccines for high medical need indications. This includes BioNTech’s Malaria and Tuberculosis programs, BNT165 and BNT164, respectively, which are both currently in Phase 1 clinical trials. BioNTech’s efforts also include the establishment of a decentralized and robust end-to-end manufacturing network in Africa aiming to enable scalable production of mRNA-based medicines. The first manufacturing site based on the company’s state-of-the-art, scalable BioNTainer solution is currently being built in Kigali, Rwanda.

BioNTech and CEPI are committed to enabling equitable access to the outputs of this partnership. Any licensed vaccines developed as a result of this strategic partnership are expected to be made available at affordable prices in low- and middle-income countries.

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