Pfizer, BioNTech partner on first mRNA-based shingles vax

Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech announced a new collaboration to develop an mRNA-based vaccine for the prevention of shingles.

The shingles vaccine will combine Pfizer’s antigen technology and BioNTech’s proprietary mRNA platform technology. Pfizer and BioNTech, who collaborated to develop an influenza vaccine in 2018 and to develop the first approved mRNA COVID-19 vaccine in 2020, expect to begin clinical trials on the shingles vaccine candidate in the second half of 2022.

The terms of the agreement state that Pfizer will pay BioNTech $225 million in upfront payments, including an upfront cash payment of $75 million and an equity investment of $150 million. BioNTech will pay Pfizer $25 million for its proprietary antigen technology. Pfizer will have the rights to commercialize the potential vaccine on a global basis except in Germany, Turkey, and certain developing countries where BioNTech will have the commercialization rights.

“Our goal is to develop an mRNA vaccine with a favorable safety profile and high efficacy,” said Ugur Sahin, M.D., CEO and Co-Founder of BioNTech. The collaboration aims to use the resources and technologies of both companies to develop a more effective vaccine that can be produced efficiently around the world.

If successful, the vaccine would be in direct competition with GlaxoSmithKline’s Shingrix vaccine, currently the only U.S. FDA -approved shingles vaccine in the U.S. Shingrix was initially approved in 2017 for the prevention of shingles in adults 50 years of age or older, and the approval was expanded last year to include immunocompromised individuals aged 18 years and older.

Shingles, also known as the herpes zoster virus, impacts about 1 in 3 people in the U.S. during their lifetime. Adults over the age of 50 and immunocompromised people are at increased risk for shingles, said Sahin.

 BioNTech is also using mRNA technology to develop a malaria vaccine, the company announced in July 2021.