German group BioNTech behind first Covid jab aims to develop effective malaria vaccine

The German pharmaceutical group behind one of the most successful Covid vaccines hopes to use the same technology to develop a vaccine against malaria - one of the world’s deadliest diseases.

BioNTech, which developed the first coronavirus vaccine with US company Pfizer, is aiming to begin clinical trials for a "safe and highly effective malaria vaccine".

The latest announcement comes just months after Oxford researchers developed the world's most effective malaria vaccine - according to their recent trials.

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Researchers from the University of Oxford and their partners have reported findings from a Phase IIb trial of a candidate malaria vaccine, R21/Matrix-M, which demonstrated 77% efficacy over 12 months of follow-up.

It's the first such vaccine to achieve the World Health Organisation-specified 75% efficacy goal.

Currently, there is just one approved malaria jab - Mosquirix - which GlaxoSmithKline spent more than three decades developing. However, it is only 39% effective for four years on average.

40,000 people die from Malaria each year. Credit: ITV News

There have been around 229 million cases of malaria globally in 2019, with approximately 409,000 deaths that year, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Malaria parasites are transmitted by the bite of female Anopheles mosquitoes - the Plasmodium falciparum parasite being responsible for most malaria infections and almost all deaths caused by the disease worldwide.

BioNTech's co-founder and chief executive, Uğur Şahin, said "We feel a duty to utilise our technology to develop and manufacture mRNA-based vaccines addressing this life-threatening disease such as Malaria."

He added that he wants to develop sustainable solutions for and together with the people of Africa.

"Building on our mRNA technology and the competencies gained from the pandemic, our efforts will include substantial investments in vaccine development as well as transferring manufacturing expertise to sites on the African continent," Mr Şahin said.