German biotech firm boss 'confident' vaccine is effective against new Covid variant
The founder of the German company behind the first vaccine to receive authorization in Europe said on Monday he was confident that his jab would also work against the new mutation of the virus that was detected in the UK.
"We have already tested the vaccine against around 20 other viral variants with different mutations,” BioNTech boss Uğur Şahin said.
“The immune response elicited by our vaccine has always inactivated all forms of the virus," he added.
A new variant has been spreading in parts of the United Kingdom for several months now and it has found its way to several European countries.
The new variant, known as the VUI-202012/01 variant, was first detected in September, reports the BBC.
Patrick Vallance, scientific advisor to the British government, said the new strain is spreading rapidly and is becoming the dominant strain of the virus in the south of England. By December, he said, it was already responsible for more than 60 per cent of infections in London.
Sahin said that his company would now start testing to assess the effectiveness of its vaccine, which was developed in cooperation with US company Pfizer.
"We have to test this experimentally now. That will take about two weeks. But we are confident that it will not significantly affect the mechanism of action," he said.
The antigen used by the Mainz-based company and its US partner Pfizer for the vaccine consists of more than 1270 amino acids. Of these, nine have mutated in the new variant, or not even one percent, Sahin said.
"Our vaccine sees the whole protein and causes multiple immune responses. This gives us so many docking sites that the virus has a hard time escaping. But that doesn't mean the new variant is harmless."
He also said that the vaccine, which is based on the messenger molecule mRNA, can in principle be quickly adapted to new variants.