Pfizer has agreed to pay German biotech firm BioNTech up to $425 million (£334.33 million) in an alliance to develop more effective influenza jabs, the latest among several major pharma companies to bank on a promising new genetic approach.
Privately-held BioNTech will receive $120 million upfront plus up to $305 million depending on certain development achievements as well as tiered royalties on futures sales in the double-digit percentage range, the two companies said in a statement on Thursday.
Mainz-based BioNTech, valued at $2.3 billion in a January financing round, is specialising in so-called messenger RNA (mRNA) molecules that instruct human cells to produce therapeutic proteins or to launch an immune response.
The emergent field has seen drugmakers such as AstraZeneca , Eli Lilly and Sanofi partner up with biotech firms.
“mRNA vaccines offer a novel approach to code for any protein or multiple proteins, and the potential to manufacture higher potency flu vaccines more rapidly and at a lower cost than contemporary flu vaccines,” said Kathrin Jansen, the head of Pfizer’s vaccine research and development unit.