German drugmaker BioNTech has announced its new production of an mRNA-based vaccine to prevent malaria, the longstanding disease that has affected millions of people in Africa and other parts of the world.
The company, which developed America’s first authorized coronavirus vaccine with U.S. pharmaceutical company Pfizer, said clinical trials shots would begin by the end of 2022.
Other organizations such as the WHO and European Commission have been involved in the early planning phase of the new vaccine, the company said, and have offered their support to identify and set up the necessary infrastructure.
Malaria is a deadly disease caused by a parasite. Each year, more than 400 000 people die of malaria globally. Two third of these deaths are among children under the age of five, according to the World Health Organization.
A majority of malaria cases are in Africa. According to WHO, more than a million people in Africa die from malaria every year, including 3,000 children each day.
The development of the new vaccine comes as the world continues to deal with the Covid pandemic, which began spreading worldwide in early 2020 and has since killed more than 4.1 million people, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
Pfizer and BioNTech were able to develop the highly effective mRNA-based vaccine that has now been used in several countries, including the U.S.
Messenger RNA, or mRNA, technology has been under development for years, but Pfizer’s and Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccines are the first time mRNA has been cleared for use in humans. The mRNA-based Covid vaccine works by tricking the body to produce a harmless piece of the virus, triggering an immune response. It’s said to be easier to produce over traditional vaccines, which generally use a dead or weakened virus to produce an immune response.
Due to the success of the mRNA Covid vaccine, other drugmakers are looking to develop new vaccines using the technology.
Pfizer, for example, has said it is developing an mRNA-based flu vaccine. Kathrin Jansen, head of Pfizer’s vaccine research and development, told CNBC in May that the technology could create “more potent” shots.