mRNA-based Shingles Vaccine Coming Soon
Germany-based BioNTech SE and Pfizer Inc. today announced a new research, development, and commercialization collaboration to develop a potential first mRNA-based vaccine to prevent shingles (herpes zoster virus, or HZV).
Clinical trials are planned to start in the second half of 2022.
This is the third collaboration between Pfizer and BioNTech in the infectious diseases field, following the influenza vaccine collaboration initiated in 2018 and the COVID-19 vaccine collaboration started in 2020.
The companies stated in a press release 'while there are currently approved vaccines for shingles (Shingrix), there is an opportunity to develop an improved vaccine that potentially shows high efficacy and better tolerability, and is more efficient to produce globally, by utilizing mRNA technology.'
Pfizer has the right to commercialize the potential vaccine globally, except for Germany, Turkey, and certain developing countries where BioNTech will have commercialization rights.
The companies will share gross profits from the commercialization of any product.
Ugur Sahin, M.D., CEO and Co-Founder of BioNTech, commented in a press statement issued on January 5, 2022, "Adults aged 50 years and older, as well as vulnerable populations like cancer patients, are at an increased risk of shingles."
"Our goal is to develop an mRNA vaccine with a favorable safety profile and high efficacy, which is at the same time more easily scalable to support global access."
Shingles is a chronic form of the varicella-zoster virus, which causes an initial chickenpox infection.
After chickenpox disease, the virus remains dormant in human nerve cells and can re-activate later in life due to a trigger such as stress or immunocompromise.
This attack can lead to extremely painful, disfiguring patches, which may continue to be painful after the episode has resolved, a condition known as postherpetic neuralgia.
Shingles can also lead to facial paralysis, deafness, and blindness in rare conditions.
According to the U.S. CDC, studies show that about 99% of Americans 40 years and older have had chickenpox, even if they don't remember having the disease.