Ugur Sahin, CEO of BioNTech, told CNBC on Thursday that he was “confident” that the company’s Covid-19 vaccine with US partner Pfizer will be effective against a variant of the coronavirus first identified in India.
The strain known as B.1.617 contains two key mutations that have been found separately in other coronavirus variants. The variant, also known as the “double mutant,” was first discovered in India, where some believe it is behind a recent spike in new Covid-19 cases.
The variant has since been identified in other countries, including the United States.
Sahin said the German drug maker had tested its two-dose vaccine, currently not available in India, against similar “double mutants”. Based on that data, Sahin said he feels confident the shot will still be protective.
“We evaluate [the strain] … and the data will be available in the coming weeks, “he told CNBC.
“However, we had similar double mutants in our previous tests and are confident from the data we had in the past that we could see a similar way of neutralizing this virus. But we will only know when we have the data. ” in our hands, “he added.
In recent months, US health officials have said they fear that new, highly contagious variants of the virus may one day be able to evade the protection of currently approved vaccines. They urge Americans to get vaccinated as soon as possible before new and potentially more dangerous variants emerge.
Studies have shown that the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine still protects against other strains, including B.1.526, the variant first identified in New York, and B.1.1.7, the variant found in the UK
An Israeli study found that B.1.351, the variant discovered in South Africa, was able to bypass some of the protection provided by the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine, even though the shot continued to be highly effective.
Although the shot continues to be effective, Sahin said people will likely need a third shot of his two-dose Covid-19 vaccine to reduce immunity to the Tureci virus.
In February, Pfizer and BioNTech announced that they were testing a third dose of their Covid-19 vaccine to better understand the immune response against new variants of the virus.
Sahin said Thursday that researchers are seeing a decrease in antibody responses to the virus after eight months.
“If we give a boost, we could actually increase the antibody response beyond what we had at the beginning, and that could give us a real comfort of protection for at least 12 months, maybe 18 months,” he said.