The Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine makers are “turning every stone” to scale up production capacity as Europe continues to suffer from a deficit in vaccine supply.
In an exclusive interview with CNN, BioNTech co-founder and chief medical officer Özlem Türeci said the company is “continuously re-evaluating how the target we have already set could be even overperformed.”
Despite certain limitations, such as the fact that they “cannot train people very fast”, the company focuses on finding partners “who can complement pieces of this pretty large network” of vaccine supply.
The company is also being kept busy by the continuous need to test its robustness against new variants of the virus.
Based on their analysis, the current vaccine is effective against the variants first detected in the UK and South Africa, with Türeci stressing that the company’s priority is ascertaining “which variant is of real concern.”
Resources are being directed into being “prepared for tomorrow in case such a variant of concern would occur: the processes with which we can adapt to a new variant,” Türeci added.
The organization uses its “fast and adaptable” mRNA platform to exchange the genetic sequence of the old variant against that of the new one, according to Türeci. Blueprint clinical trials, whereby the company pre-discusses with regulators the switch in sequence, are also being deployed.
Although emerging variants are something, BioNTech has to take “seriously,” Türeci told CNN that there is “no reason for fear currently.”
Türeci also spoke of how a “gender-balanced team is one of the key success factors” in BioNTech’s work, boosting its problem-solving capabilities.
“As scientists, we are used — particularly because we have always worked in technology innovation — we are used to solving problems and unknowns in real-time. And that was a strength which helped us along this way.”
The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine has drawn praise from across the globe for its high effectiveness, with a peer-reviewed study in Israel showing an effectiveness rate of 94% in preventing asymptomatic Covid-19.