BioNTech teams up with Fosun Pharma to test Covid-19 mRNA vaccine in China — and scores $50M investment
Having quietly launched its own mRNA vaccine efforts against the novel coronavirus to match the higher profile campaigns of Moderna and CureVac, Germany’s BioNTech has offered a glimpse on its progress as it unveils an alliance with a prominent Chinese player.
Fosun Pharma will team up with BioNTech to conduct trials of its Covid-19 vaccine, BNT162, in China. To get on board, Fosun bought $50 million worth of BioNTech equity $BNTX and promised up to $85 million more in payments.
In a separate statement, BioNTech said it plans to initiate clinical testing in late April, rolling out a global development program in Europe (starting in Germany), the US and China.
Shares surged 39.02% to $43 in pre-market trading, bucking the downward trend in a turbulent market (the Nasdaq Biotech Index is also trading up).
While Fosun has rights to commercialize the resulting vaccine in China, BioNTech is still exploring what to do in the rest of the world. It’s in “advanced discussions” with Pfizer around that — echoing comments made by its pharma partner earlier this month.
The deal marks the first public announcements BioNTech has made on Project Lightspeed, its development program in response to the viral infection that’s fast engulfing the world, since quietly disclosing the project initiation in a February SEC filing. As of Monday morning, worldwide cases are edging toward 170,000, with multiple European countries and parts of the US now on lockdown.
Like fellow German biotech CureVac — whom the US government has reportedly tried to lure into moving stateside — BioNTech’s vaccine approach involves using mRNA to trick the body into producing a version of the SARS-CoV-2, which would then incite an immune response. Its manufacturing partner Polymun will be in charge of producing a global supply out of facilities in Europe.
“In addition, we are working on a novel therapeutics approach for those patients who have already been infected – we plan to disclose more on that effort in the coming weeks,” Ugur Sahin, founder and CEO, said in a statement.
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