How Pfizer Partner Bioentech Coronavirus Vaccine Leads the Race

Mainz, Germany On a Friday in late January, Ugur Sahin received an email with bad news: A new study of a deadly new coronavirus in China suggests it is more contagious than previously thought. He believed the outbreak was likely to be an epidemic.

The following Monday, the chief executive of the German scientist and biotech company Bioentech SE called his board and announced that the company, which is developing a treatment for the next pay cancer, would begin work on the Covid-19 vaccine. He added that if Europe and the US had to go into lockout, human trials would need to begin by April.

Ugur Sahin, co-founder and chief executive of Bioentech, led the company to focus on coronavirus research at the onset of the epidemic.

Much of the world was still ignored for fear, Bioentech was wandering, Dr. Sah. Sahin told the Wall Street Journal earlier this month that the sequence of events would counteract his lesser-known company to the forefront of the global race. For the Covid-19 vaccine.

The director and key employees, many of whom were going to come on ski holidays, were initially pushed back, the CEO and some associates said. But he and his wife, Leo Zalem Tersi, chief medical officer at Bioentech, the company’s co-founder and largest single shareholder, insisted.

D It. “It took some conviction,” Sahin said. “Some people thought that the situation in China was being undermined, that it would not affect us.”

Nine months later, Bioentech has partnered with Pfizer Inc.,

P.F.E. -1.09%

And the end of clinical trials on tandem vaccine candidates is near. Companies could file for emergency authorization in late November, after which or potentially make shots available in December. Shares of Bayonet Tech have nearly tripled in value since January.

U.S. The boutique German Biotech’s partnership with the pharma giant began with a personal collaboration between Dr. Sahter Sahin and Catherine Jensen, another head of vaccine research and development at Pfizer.

The two had their initial meeting in 2017 at Pfizer’s New York headquarters, while Dn. Sahin was looking for partners to work on treating a potential infectious disease, developing bioentech. Dr. Jensen, executives on long-listed vaccines for academic and corporate credentials, were previously skeptical about Bioentech’s platform, he recalled, but as they talked, she became more acceptable.

“I was warned that it could be very tough, but I didn’t get her that way, she asked very good questions and within 10 minutes we got a great understanding,” Dr. Sahin said.

Bionettech’s Chief Medical Officer Fischer le Zalem Tracy and her husband Dr Sahin sold their first company, Ganymede Pharmaceuticals, for 1. 1.66 billion before focusing on Bioentech.

In August 2018, both companies agreed to develop an influenza vaccine. The injection will be licensed to Pfizer and will be based on messenger RNA, also known as mRNA – nuclear couriers carrying genetic instructions that, when used in vaccines, instruct cells to make proteins to produce immune defenses against the virus. Is.

“Like any new technology, mRNA needed to be scientifically proven and at the time, there was little evidence that RNA techniques could be effective in preventing infectious disease,” said Dr. Jensen said. “The technology I was interested in was the possibility of developing a better flu vaccine, for which RNA offered several potential benefits in current approaches.”

Biotech still has no valid treatment or vaccine. But Dr. Sahin has been working on mRNA technology with his wife for more than 25 years. The two children of Turkish immigrants found while working at a cancer clinic sold the couple to their first company, Ganymede Pharmaceuticals AG, in 2016 for 1.4 billion (6 1.66 billion).

Byantech and Pfizer’s influenza pocket was due to enter human trials in 2020. But in January, Dr. Sahin’s Pivot Covid-19 schedule was scrapped. Those who caused the epidemic in China – it is becoming a good place to conduct vaccine tests, where he has approached Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical Company Ltd. to test the candidates. Made a deal with.

Dr. Sahin was divided into bayonet tech staff into working groups over a seven-day week known as Project Lightspeed. Groups were segregated to avoid transmission if one member should be infected. Dr Sahin said he had stopped flying and advised his staff to travel by car if possible.

By the end of February, Bioentek had identified 20 vaccine candidates, four of whom had been selected for the German trial. Technologies, while developing cancer treatments and working on flu vaccines, are able to narrow down the hard work of identifying candidates over the months.

As China loses its appeal as a potential vaccine testing area due to the progress of officials having the virus, Dr. Sah. Sahin d March. Jansen was asked to suggest a new partnership for testing the Covid-19 vaccine in the U.S. on March 1.

Dr. Jan. He told Dr. Sahin, “Sure, I would be interested. That’s probably the most important thing we can do.

Dr. Sah. Sahin offered to split the rest of the development costs as well as the profits in the middle. Dr. Jan. Jensen admitted, he said, and the two companies began work on the project just before the contract was signed. Pfizer said that Dr. Jensen agrees with the principle of working with Bioentech.

“It was all based on faith,” Dr. Sahin said.

“RNA technology has provided a faster route to medical evaluations than traditional techniques, and our collaboration on the flu has been very positive,” said Dr. Jensen said. “Pfizer will add their significant development skills and infrastructure to help Byantech understand their technological potential. It took a while to work through all the details, but we came to an agreement that took advantage of both of our strengths in trying to do something that was impossible to do. “

In a video conference on March 14, 60 officials from 60 companies and scientists met to discuss the legal and scientific terms of the partnership. Three days later, they announced the deal.

Governments around the world are discussing a timeline for giving the Covid-19 vaccine to people as drug manufacturers accelerate growth. Daniela Hernandez of WSJ explains the potential health risks associated with the rapid tracking vaccine. Photo: Sifive Sibeko / AP

Under the agreement, Bioentech agreed to open its mRNA research to Pfizer, which closed the infectious-disease unit years ago. Because of the U.S. ban on Europeans traveling, scientists had to use Pfizer executive jets to ferry genetic material back and forth across the Atlantic, Dr. Sahin said.

The collaboration between the 170-year-old pharma giant with nearly 100,000 employees and 1,500 people in biotech equipment was surprisingly friction, said Dr. Sahin said.

A daily conference agenda and a mixed team were established. Disagreements, such as which vaccine candidate to choose for the test, were settled among the critics regardless of their corporate affiliations.

Dr. Sah. Sahin said, “There is no place for ego. Dialogue is a lot of dialogue, and it is very nice.

Respected technologies in the development of cancer treatment have enabled Biontech to narrow down the process of identifying vaccine candidates in months.

Initially, Dr. Sahin and Pfizer CEO Albert Baurla spoke several times a day. Afterwards, they entered into a connecting routine each week to take part in the week’s work. Dr. Sahin said that they take most of the key decisions together but they did not meet face to face till September, when Mr. Baurla went to Europe.

Dr. Sahin clarified that any vaccine would be a bioentech product. Unlike the flu shot, he said, Pfizer would obtain a U.S. license for the Covid-19 vaccine on behalf of Bioentech, not for itself.

Pfizer said the “primarily directed” intellectual property toward the vaccine would be owned by Bioentech, but that the new discovery would ultimately be owned by Bioentech or Pfizer once the Covid-19 partnership began, depending on the “nature” of the discovery.

Dr. Sah. Sahin’s insistence on retaining ownership of the vaccine stems from his determination to accelerate the company’s work in treating cancer in another area on mRNA Technolog .G which is currently undergoing clinical trials.

As a result of the increase in the share price of Bayonet Tech this year, Dr. Sahin and Dr. T. Racey are now among the 100 richest Germans. But this time he has no intention of selling his company.

The first licensing of mRNA-based treatments will usher in a pharmacological revolution, he said, “and we will have the opportunity to shape this new industry.”

Write to [email protected] Bojan Pensewski and Jared S. Hopkins at [email protected]

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