BioNTech is Working on an Adapted Vaccine: No Time to Lose

The German vaccine manufacturer BioNTech is already working preventively on a vaccine that is adapted to the omicron variant, should this prove necessary. In addition, laboratory tests are also underway to investigate the omicron variant.


“In order not to lose time, we will take on both assignments simultaneously until the data is ready and we know better whether the vaccine needs to be adjusted or not,” said a BioNTech spokesperson on Monday.

The two production phases partly overlap. An example is the construction plan of the spike protein of the pseudovirus with which the laboratory tests are performed. In the tests, blood serum from vaccinees is confronted with the spike protein of the variant. “The serums contain the antibodies that we get after vaccination,” said the BioNTech spokeswoman. BioNTech then examines how well they neutralize the new spike protein.

On Friday, BioNTech said the new variant clearly differs from the current one because it shows additional mutations to the spike protein. The data from the laboratory tests should show whether an adjustment of the vaccines is necessary if the variant spreads worldwide. Results are expected at the end of next week.

Together with its American ally Pfizer, BioNtech has been preparing for months for a so-called ‘escape’ variant of the virus. The aim is to adapt the vaccine within six weeks and start the first deliveries after 100 days, BioNTech said. To this end, clinical studies have been started with variant-specific vaccines to obtain data on their safety. Then, when adapting the vaccine, they can be submitted to the authorities as sample data.

An ‘escape’ variant is a virus variant that at least partially circumvents the effect of the current vaccines. A vaccine based on messenger RNA or mRNA, such as those from BioNTech or Moderna, is easier to adapt than conventional vaccines because only the building plan has to be produced, not the antigen itself.

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