German company looking to leverage technology to help eradicate one of Africa’s most deadliest diseases.
BioNTech, the German pharmaceutical company, which developed a COVID-19 vaccine traded as Comirnaty with US giant Pfizer in record time, said on Monday it aimed to start trialling a malaria vaccine next year using the same breakthrough mRNA technology. The company's strategy is two-fold: it aims to develop a much-needed malaria vaccine candidate as well as boost mRNA production capabilities on the African continent by looking into setting up an mRNA hub in Africa for future vaccine production. If successful, the vaccine could be a crucial step in the fight against the mosquito-borne disease, which kills over 400,000 people a year, mainly young children in Africa. Malaria is a life-threatening disease caused by a plasmodium parasite, transmitted by the bite of infected mosquitoes.
BioNtech said it will assess several vaccine candidates and begin clinical trials by the end of 2022. The project is supported by the World Health Organisation (WHO), the Africa CDC and the European Union. "Messenger RNA technology is helping us to save lives from Covid-19 and diseases that we have only known about for 19 months. Malaria has been with us for millenia. Eradicating it has been a long-held but unattainable dream," said WHO director Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. The project will aid in the fight against the dreadful disease, as many hope to eradicate malaria in this generation. "We are witnessing the start of a revolution in medical science, the revolution of messenger RNA," said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Monday.