BioNTech, Fosun Pharma forge alliance to develop COVID-19 vaccine candidate BNT162 in China

BioNTech and Fosun Pharmaceutical on Monday announced a strategic collaboration to advance BioNTech's mRNA vaccine candidate BNT162 in China for the prevention of COVID-19 infections. Under the terms of the agreement, Fosun Pharma will pay BioNTech up to $135 million in upfront and potential future investment and milestone payments, with the companies sharing any eventual profits from the sale of the vaccine in China. Fosun Pharma will also take a 0.7% stake from new shares in BioNTech for $50 million.  

"We see this collaboration as an important step in our global effort to expedite the development of our mRNA vaccine to prevent COVID-19 infection," commented BioNTech CEO Ugur Sahin, noting that Fosun Pharma "brings deep development experience and an extensive network in the pharmaceutical market in China." BioNTech's shares gained more than 26% on the news.

Under the terms of the agreement, the two companies will work jointly on the development of BNT162 in China, leveraging Fosun Pharma's clinical development, regulatory and commercial capabilities in the country. If approved, Fosun Pharma will commercialise the vaccine in China. Meanwhile, BioNTech will produce the vaccine for clinical trials from its manufacturing facilities in Europe along with partner Polymun, and will retain full rights to develop and market the product in the rest of the world. 

Separately on Monday, BioNTech said it intends to initiate clinical testing for BNT162 in late April, as part of a development programme that includes Europe, starting in Germany, and the US, as well as China. Aside from the collaboration with Fosun Pharma in China, BioNTech indicated that it is in "advanced discussions" with its existing partner Pfizer regarding the development of the vaccine outside the country. 

Other companies working on mRNA-based vaccines for COVID-19 include CureVac and Moderna, which on Monday said the first patient was dosed in a Phase I trial of its vaccine candidate mRNA-1273.

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