mRNA pioneer BioNTech announced recently that it is developing an mRNA-based vaccine to attempt to eradicate malaria.  Its efforts are geographically focused on Africa, and the company said it is furthering those efforts to build manufacturing capacity on the African continent.

This all comes on the heels of being the first to ever put an mRNA-based product on the market, its COVID-19 vaccine developed with Pfizer, demonstrated to be 95% effective.

“The response to the pandemic has shown that science and innovation can transform people’s lives when all key stakeholders work together towards a common goal,” said Ugur Sahin, BioNTech’s Chief Executive Officer and co-founder.

Malaria has been a difficult problem to solve throughout the decades, with scientists up until now unable to defeat the disease that infects millions of people every year and kills more than 400,000, with most of the victims being infants and young children in impoverished regions in Africa.

Malaria is caused by a parasite that avoids recognition by the immune system. Similar to the function of BioNTech’s  COVID-19 vaccine, the malaria mRNA vaccine is intended to cause human cells to make a protein that is a recognizable component of the malaria pathogen, invoking an immune response in the person receiving the vaccine. The antibodies built up during that process are meant to provide a defense in the event of exposure to the real pathogen.

“The very high efficacy of two mRNA vaccines for COVID-19 have shown the world just how powerful this technology could be against many diseases, including malaria,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, head of the World Health Organisation (WHO).

BioNTech said it will seek to target the circumsporozoite protein (CSP) and other antigens discovered in pre-clinical work and select the most promising vaccine candidate for a clinical trial to commence by the end of 2022.

Chief Operating Officer Sierk Poetting said the company would support the initial research and early production of the vaccine then work with its partners for large-scale trials, infrastructure build, and go-to-market.

Here are some reports relating to this story for your reference: EndpointsNews ; Reuters ; Bloomberg.

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