Pfizer and BNTECH start dosing patients
As coronavirus infection case rapidly race, researches and pharmaceutical giants are on the hunt for developing a vaccine. Amongst the leading contenders is US-based drugmaker Pfizer, who has collaborated with a German company, BNTECH to procure a vaccine to beat coronavirus, ‘BNT162’.
The vaccine, which received the neccessary clinical approvals began human trials in Germany in the month of March and was one of the early four contenders in the development race.
How does the vaccine work?
The pharma giant, in collaboration with the German company, has introduced four vaccine candidates, which have been devised out of messenger RNA (mRNA) format and target antigen which would be tested on volunteers to identify the most viable and suited vaccine of the four. The data is being shared with scientists in real-time. The tests are currently going on in Germany and parts of the USA.
In the first stage of testing, close to 200 people aged between 18-55 are being tested, while in the next phase, another 160 people (possibly from higher-risk categories) will be tested and evaluated. Depending on the observation, dosing patterns will be deduced for further trials.
Out of the four, while three potential vaccines contain nucleoside-modified mRNA, the other one contains self- amplifying mRNA.
If found to be successful, the company aims at speeding up the trials and conduct the study at a large scale, involving more participants. The company is hopeful that once the green signal is received, they will be able to amp up production at large scale and may even produce a million vaccines for use by October 2020.
What is the role of mRNA? How is it different from other vaccines?
Innovative RNA vaccines are leading the race in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. As of now, as many as eighteen mRNA-based vaccine candidates are in development globally for Covid-19.
Interestingly, mRNA or messenger RNA is a novel strategy and has never been used or approved in vaccines before. However, Pfizer’s vaccine idea has been considered as the frontrunner for many reasons.
RNA vaccines offer several advantages over conventional vaccines, particularly when responding to a pandemic threat. RNA vaccines are intended to induce the production of antibodies which will bind to potential pathogens. mRNA is a molecule which is made up of several different types of nucleotides (which form the basic structure of DNA) to encode and synthesize protein and antigens.
Once the vaccine is harnessed inside the body, the cells then use it to sync up the antigens produced by the mRNA vaccine. Further encoding ensures that the new antigens in the body are displayed on the cell surface, which is then picked up and efficiently recognized by the immune system. Once this happens, the immune system helps speed up the production of antibodies which fight against the virus antigen.
mRNA vaccines are also considered safe. Several pre-clinical studies conducted over the years have confirmed that. The reason why mRNA vaccines are also considered to be more efficient in dealing with a pandemic of such large proportions is that unlike other conventional vaccines, mRNA can be easily produced in the laboratory, at a cheap rate too.
A similar vaccine, based on the workings of mRNA usage has been developed by another pharma giant, Moderna and has been given the go-ahead by FDA in the fight against COVID-19.