BioNTech and Pfizer are among the front-runners in the closely watched COVID-19 vaccine race, and as they simultaneously work through development and scale up manufacturing, BioNTech has scored a €100 million financing agreement to help fund production in Europe.
The European Investment Bank signed a debt financing deal with BioNTech—to be completed in two €50 million tranches—as the biotech advances its Pfizer-partnered COVID-19 vaccine program, BNT162. The partners entered human testing in Germany back in April, followed by a U.S. study that launched in early May. The funding will be contingent on the program reaching certain milestones.
The funds will help with ongoing development and with BioNTech's efforts to scale up for production in Europe. The biotech already operates three mRNA factories in Germany, and it has been working to add capacity for its COVID-19 vaccine program.
The BNT162 program is testing four mRNA vaccines against COVID-19 so the partners can zero in on the most promising options. The companies inked their COVID-19 vaccine tie-up back in March.
In April, the companies unveiled plans to produce “millions” of doses this year and potentially “hundreds of millions” in 2021. At the time, Cantor Fitzgerald analysts wrote that the team could begin producing doses “at risk” to be in a position to distribute as quickly as possible if and when they win approvals.
While Pfizer and BioNTech are in phase 1/2 testing, Moderna and AstraZeneca have moved to phase 2 and beyond. Meanwhile, U.S. authorities are planning phase 3 studies for Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson later this year, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday. Pfizer could start a phase 3 trial as soon as July, a source told the newspaper.
BioNTech is focusing on production in Europe, and Pfizer has selected three U.S. sites—and one in Belgium—for its mRNA vaccine manufacturing. Those sites are in Michigan, Massachusetts and Missouri as well as Puurs, Belgium. Pfizer has said it plans to select other sites as well.