Drug manufacturers are rushing to test whether vaccines stop the coronavirus variant

ZURICH / FRANKFURT: Drug manufacturers, including BioNTech and Moderna, are struggling to test their COVID-19 vaccines against the new fast-spreading variant of the virus that is unleashing in the UK, the latest challenge in the entire pandemic race.
Ugur Sahin, chief executive of German company BioNTech, which with partner Pfizer took less than a year to receive an approved vaccine, said on Tuesday it needed two more weeks to see if its shot could stop the mutant. of the virus.
Moderna expects immunity from its vaccine to protect against the variant and conducts several tests in the coming weeks to confirm, the company said in a statement to CNN. Moderna did not immediately respond to Reuters’ requests for comment.
The mutation known as line B.1.1.7 can be up to 70% more infectious and can be more worrying for children. It has wreaked havoc in Britain, causing a wave of travel bans that disrupt trade with Europe and threaten to further isolate the island’s country.
Sahin said there were nine mutations in the virus.
Although he does not think they are important enough to cover the protection offered by the BioNTech mRNA vaccine, which was approved by the European Union on Monday, he said another 14 days of study and data collection were needed before providing a definitive answer.
“From a scientific point of view, it is very likely that the immune response of this vaccine can also cope with this variant of the virus,” he said in a call with reporters.
“The vaccine contains more than 1,270 amino acids and only 9 of them are modified (in the mutant virus). That means 99% of the protein is still the same.”
CureVac in Germany said it did not expect the variant to affect the effectiveness of its experimental photography, which is based on the same messenger RNA (mRNA) technology used by Pfizer-BioNTech.
He began late-term clinical trials on his vaccine candidate last week and is constantly reviewing variants that the company said are common as viruses spread.
Even though there are multiple mutations, said Sahin, from BioNTech, most sites on the virus that are recognized by the body’s T cell response are unchanged and several antibody binding sites are also preserved.
If the variant presents an unexpected challenge to vaccine developers, an advantage of mRNA is that scientists can quickly reconstruct the genetic material in the picture to match that of the mutant protein, while modifying traditional vaccines would require additional steps.
“Basically, the beauty of mRNA technology is that we can directly start designing a vaccine that completely mimics this new mutation,” Sahin said.
“We may be able to deliver a new technical vaccine within six weeks. Of course, this is not just a technical question. We need to deal with how regulators … would see that.”
Britain’s chief scientific adviser, Patrick Vallance, said on Saturday that vaccines appear to be adequate in generating an immune response to the coronavirus variant.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Tuesday it would convene a meeting of members to discuss strategies to combat mutation.