Granted by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, three German firms will receive crucial funding towards their vaccine research projects and clinical trials. BioNTech, CureVac and IDT Biologika will all receive a share of the $890m (USD) available, subject to each company’s achievement of significant clinical trial milestones. At a press conference yesterday, the German government’s minister for health told reporters that the funding was essential for the production of “an effective and safe vaccine”.
Why is this significant?
With BioNTech currently partnered with US industry-leader Pfizer, this funding could be the answer to tackling this virus once and for all. The partners are currently running phase 3 clinical trials of their vaccine candidate, BNT162b2; with just under 30,000 patients currently enrolled and patient recruitment campaigns now operating over three continents. While the government investment will not extend to work outside of the allocated company, BioNTech’s experience of working with the American firm is bound to put them in good stead for their own clinical studies.
This week, a group of independent researchers monitoring the partners’ research found that there were no major safety issues. This verdict was reached after 12,000 participants receiving their second two doses of the vaccine candidate reported no safety concerns. Getting the green light from the study’s results, the partners have extended the scope of their clinical trial enrollment targets and are now including participants with certain medical conditions, such as HIV.
What else is going on?
Another of the chosen three, CureVac, is also busy running their phase 1 clinical trials across various Beligan and German sites. In recent weeks, the company has been vocal about their intentions for the trial’s progression; stating that they hope to initiate phase 2b/3 clinical trials of its compound in the last quarter of this year. CureVac also made known, just last month, that the firm is in talks with European Commission about purchasing 225 million doses of their mRNA vaccine.
Today, the safety of coronavirus vaccine shots is at the forefront of industry-wide discussions. Late last week, AstraZeneca's clinical trials were halted as patients across their studies were thought to have developed a condition called transverse myelitis. An independent safety board is still currently reviewing the situation; and a verdict on whether or not the illness was induced by the vaccine tested is yet to be confirmed. The company’s UK trials have now recommenced - but their US operations remain at a standstill.
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