BioNTech sets sights on oral mRNA vaccines with deal to access Matinas delivery technology

BioNTech has struck a deal to explore oral delivery of mRNA vaccines. Working with Matinas BioPharma, the German mRNA specialist will study the potential for a lipid nanocrystal (LNC) platform to enable new vaccine formulations.

The pandemic catapulted BioNTech into the biotech big leagues as the vaccine it discovered and then developed with Pfizer became a cornerstone of vaccination COVID-19 campaigns around the world. From that position of strength, BioNTech has identified Matinas as a company that can help it build a business beyond the Comirnaty windfall.

BioNTech is paying $2.75 million for exclusive access to Matinas’ LNC platform in the delivery of mRNA vaccines, and will fund some of its new partner’s research expenses related to the collaboration. Talks about a potential licensing agreement are underway.

The deal gives BioNTech a chance to take a closer look at the value the platform could bring to its mRNA vaccines. Matinas, which also has a LNC partnership with Genentech, licensed the platform from Rutgers University to enable the targeted intracellular delivery of a range of molecules, including mRNA.

In the context of mRNA vaccines, the stability of LNC structures has potentially significant implications. According to Matinas, the highly stable structure “allows for the avoidance of extreme cold chain storage temperatures required for maintaining the integrity of [lipid nanoparticles],” such as those used in the administration of Comirnaty. The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is stored at -90°C to -60°C.

If the LNC platform can enable mRNA vaccines to be stored at higher temperatures, it would be easier to get the products to people in the developing world, although the pandemic has already increased access to ultracold chain freezers. 

The stability of the LNC structure also opens the door to oral administration. Matinas is already using the platform to enable oral administration of its own molecules and BioNTech wants to assess whether it can open up a new route of delivery of mRNA vaccines.