The shingles vaccine candidate will be developed based on BioNTech’s mRNA technology platform and Pfizer’s antigen technology


Pfizer, BioNTech partner to develop shingles vaccine. (Credit: AVAKA photo from Pixabay.)

Pfizer and BioNTech have announced a new partnership to research, develop and commercialise what they claim is the world’s first mRNA vaccine against shingles (herpes zoster virus/HZV).

The collaboration builds on the previous partnership between the two companies to develop an mRNA-based vaccine against Covid-19.

It is the third mRNA vaccine partnership between Pfizer and BioNTech, following collaboration for developing the influenza vaccine in 2018 and the Covid-19 vaccine in 2020.

Under the agreement, Pfizer will make an upfront payment of $225m to BioNTech. The payment includes a $75m cash and $150m equity investment in BioNTech.

BioNTech is eligible to receive up to $200m in milestone payments based on achieving certain regulatory and sales milestones in future.

Also, the company has agreed to pay $25m to Pfizer for its antigen technology.

BioNTech CEO and co-founder Ugur Sahin said: “The collaboration aims to develop a new mRNA-based vaccine against shingles, leveraging the expertise and resources of both companies.

“Adults aged 50 years and older, as well as vulnerable populations like cancer patients, are at an increased risk of shingles.

“Our goal is to develop an mRNA vaccine with a favourable safety profile and high efficacy, which is at the same time more easily scalable to support global access.”

The collaboration will use Pfizer’s antigen technology and BioNTech’s mRNA platform technology, which were previously used in their Covid-19 vaccine.

Pfizer will have the rights to market the potential vaccine worldwide, excluding Germany, Turkey and certain developing countries where BioNTech will retain the rights.

The two companies have agreed to share development costs and gross profits from the sale of the product, with plans to commence clinical trials in the second half of 2022.

Shingles is an intolerable, disfiguring and painful disease, caused by the reactivation of the chickenpox virus, a chronic form of the varicella-zoster virus (VZV).

After initial infection, the chickenpox virus remains dormant in human nerve cells and can re-activate later in life due to a trigger such as stress or immunocompromise.

Pfizer worldwide research, development and medical president and chief scientific officer Mikael Dolsten said: “Pfizer and BioNTech co-developed the world’s first mRNA vaccine, providing a well-tolerated and effective tool to help address Covid-19.

“With this agreement, we continue on our journey of discovery together, by advancing mRNA technology to tackle another health challenge ripe for scientific innovation, supported by our world-class manufacturing network.”