German government must push BioNTech to urgently transfer mRNA vaccine technology – Germany

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Berlin/Geneva, 31 May 2022 – On the eve of BioNTech’s annual shareholders’ meeting, where the German pharmaceutical company is expected to report billions of euros in profits on sales of COVID vaccines, Médecins Sans Frontières/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has urged the German government , which has supported BioNTech’s vaccine research and development with hundreds of millions of euros in public funding, to push the company to urgently transfer mRNA vaccine technology to manufacturers in low- and middle-income countries. MSF has identified more than 100 manufacturers in low- and middle-income countries that could produce mRNA vaccines against COVID, other diseases, and future pandemics, but this would require sharing technology and know-how.

BioNTech has received nearly €500 million in public funding from public investors (375 million euros from the German Ministry of Research and a loan of 100 million euros of the European Investment Bank) for the research and development of the COVID vaccine. Meanwhile, the company has recorded COVID vaccine sales of more than €18.8 billion in 2021.

“Given the significant public investment in BioNTech, the German government has an obligation to help change the global vaccine manufacturing landscape, and it must act now,” said Christian Katzer, MSF Germany Director General. . “By urging BioNTech to transfer mRNA vaccine technology to manufacturers in low- and middle-income countries, the German government would help countries move towards self-sufficient vaccine production that could increase global supply and better prepare countries for future pandemics. This would go a long way toward fulfilling the German government’s commitments to support local vaccine manufacturing efforts, as outlined in many international forums and especially during the recent G7. Communiqué of the meeting of development ministers.”

Local production capacity for mRNA vaccines in low- and middle-income countries would be a life-saving prospect for many parts of the world. In the short term, regional mRNA technology could be adapted relatively quickly to meet emerging COVID variants and supply needs. And in the medium to long term, mRNA technology could present a promising option for developing vaccines against other long-standing killer infectious diseases, such as HIV, tuberculosis and malaria. It could also play a major role in future pandemic preparedness, especially since greater geographic distribution of vaccine production capacity is a necessary component of global disease preparedness.

“The COVID pandemic has made it clear that relying on a small number of vaccine manufacturers in high- and middle-income countries is neither equitable nor effective in the face of a global health emergency,” said Lara Dovifat, Head of campaigns to MSF’s access campaign. “The good news is that there are over 100 manufacturers in Africa, Asia and South America that have the technical potential to start producing mRNA vaccines within 6-9 months if the appropriate technology is transferred by BioNTech, which could help respond to this and future pandemics much fairer.

BioNTech has recently announcement The plan to establish vaccine manufacturing with the “BioNTainer” concept on the African continent over the next 3-5 years looks promising and holds potential for a region with limited manufacturing capacity today. BioNTech should also share mRNA technology with manufacturers that currently operate in low- and middle-income countries that could receive and fully integrate mRNA production into their existing facilities.

“If BioNTech is truly committed to building vaccine manufacturing capacity in low- and middle-income countries, its ‘BioNTainer’ efforts should go hand-in-hand with technology transfer to manufacturers with *already existing capacity* in the low- and middle-income countries,” Dovifat said. “At this time, the world must take all possible steps to ensure that the opportunity to strengthen global pandemic preparedness through sustainable local production of vaccines does not shirk. And that means demanding pharmaceutical companies like BioNTech are urgently sharing mRNA technology.

For interviews, please contact Morag McKenzie at [email protected] or +49 172 525 1319 (also on WhatsApp).

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