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German, US companies to co-develop coronavirus vaccine

March 17, 2020

Germany's BioNTech is to use its drug development platform alongside Pfizer to find a vaccine for COVID-19. It comes after Donald Trump reportedly tried to entice a German lab to develop a vaccine exclusively for the US.

US and Germany wrestling over coronavirus vaccine
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/Hao Yuan

US drugmaker Pfizer and Germany's BioNTech will immediately start work together on a potential vaccine for COVID-19, the companies announced in a joint statement on Tuesday.

Both companies have signed a letter of intent for the vaccine's distribution outside China and they will decide on financial terms, manufacturing and possible commercialization over the next few weeks.

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"This is a global pandemic, which requires a global effort. In joining forces with our partner Pfizer, we believe we can accelerate our effort to bring a COVID-19 vaccine to people around the world who need it," said Ugur Sahin, Co-Founder and CEO of BioNTech.

The companies said they would use BioNTech's mRNA-based drug development platform and will use research and development sites from the two companies in both the US and Germany.

The two companies already work together to develop mRNA-based vaccines for influenza.

A day earlier, BioNtech signed a deal with Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical outlining its rights in China to its experimental coronavirus vaccine.

The companies are aiming to start testing on humans from late April.

Race for vaccine

On Sunday, German media reported that US President Donald Trump was offering large sums of money to German scientists working on a vaccine. He allegedly wanted to secure exclusive rights to the CureVac company's work.

Immunity to the rapidly-spreading virus is seen as the most effective way to stop the global outbreak.

Nearly 179,000 people around the world have been infected with the coronavirus and more 7,000 people have died.

Massachusetts-based Moderna Inc is also competing to develop a vaccine. The bio-technology company is collaborating with the US National Institutes of Health and on Monday announced that it dosed the first patient with its experimental coronavirus vaccine in an early-stage trial.

mvb/rt (Reuters, Global Newswire)

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