July 27 (CNBC) – German drugmaker BioNTech announced Monday it plans to develop an mRNA-based vaccine to prevent malaria, a life-threatening disease that impacts millions of people worldwide each year.
The company, which developed the United States’ first authorized Covid-19 vaccine with U.S. drugmaker Pfizer, said it is aiming to begin clinical trials testing the shot by the end of 2022.
The World Health Organization, European Commission and other organizations have been involved in the early planning phase of the new vaccine, the company said, and have offered their support to identify and set up the necessary infrastructure.
“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. We are committed to bringing our innovations to those who need them most,” BioNTech CEO Dr. Ugur Sahin said in a press release.
“Together with our partners, we will do whatever it takes to develop a safe and effective mRNA-based Malaria vaccine that will prevent the disease, reduce mortality and ensure a sustainable solution for the African continent and other regions affected by this disease,” he said.
Malaria is a deadly disease caused by a parasite. There were an estimated 229 million cases of Malaria and at least 409,00 deaths in 2019, according to the World Health Organization. The majority of the cases were in Africa, and children under age 5 are the most vulnerable group affected by the disease.
The development of the new vaccine comes as world continues to deal with the Covid pandemic, which began spreading worldwide in early 2020 and has since killed more than 4.1 million people, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
Pfizer and BioNTech quickly developed a highly effective mRNA-based vaccine to target the virus. It’s been used in several countries, including the U.S., and is helping drive down the number of infections and deaths.
Messenger RNA, or mRNA, technology has been under development for years, but Pfizer’s and Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccines are the first time mRNA has been cleared for use in humans. The mRNA-based Covid vaccine works by tricking the body to produce a harmless piece of the virus, triggering an immune response. It’s said to be easier to produce over traditional vaccines, which generally use a dead or weakened virus to produce an immune response.
Due to the success of the mRNA Covid vaccine, other drugmakers are looking to develop new vaccines using the technology.
Pfizer, for example, has said it is developing an mRNA-based flu vaccine. Kathrin Jansen, head of Pfizer’s vaccine research and development, told CNBC in May that the technology could create “more potent” shots.