German vaccine maker BioNTech is already proactively working on a vaccine that has been adapted to the omikron variant, if that is necessary. In addition, laboratory tests are also conducted to verify the omicron variable. “In order not to waste time, we will do both tasks simultaneously, until the data is ready and we better know whether or not the vaccine needs to be modified,” a BioNTech spokesperson said Monday.
The two production stages partially overlap. An example is the spike protein building scheme for the pseudovirus in which laboratory testing is performed. In tests, serum from vaccines is counteracted with spike protein from the variant. “Sera contain the antibodies that we get after vaccination,” a BioNTech spokeswoman said. BioNTech then checks how well the new spike protein is neutralized.
BioNTech said Friday that the new variant is distinctly different from the current variant, because it shows additional mutations in the spiky protein. Data from lab tests should show whether modifying vaccines is necessary if the alternative spreads worldwide. Expected results at the end of next week.
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Together with its American ally Pfizer, BioNtech has been preparing for months for a so-called “escape” variant of the virus. BioNTech said the goal is to adapt the vaccine within six weeks and start the first deliveries after 100 days. To this end, clinical studies with specific vaccines have been initiated in order to obtain data on their safety. When adapting the vaccine, it can be submitted to the authorities as a sample of data.
The ‘escape’ variant is a viral variant that circumvents at least partly the effect of current vaccines. An mRNA or mRNA-based vaccine, such as those from BioNTech or Moderna, is easier to adapt than conventional vaccines, because only the construction plan must be produced, not the antigen itself.