Jan. 28, 2022 -- Pfizer and BioNTech have agreed to work together to develop a vaccine for shingles using the same mRNA technology that made the companies’ COVID-19 vaccine so successful.

Clinical trials are scheduled to start the second half of 2022. The vaccine will be based on Pfizer’s antigen technology and BioNTech's mRNA platform technology, Pfizer said in a news release.

Pfizer, based in New York, and BioNTech, based in Germany, have collaborated on mRNA vaccines for influenza as well as COVID-19. The COVID vaccine was the first authorized by the FDA in December 2020. Vaccines using mRNA prompt the body to create proteins that fight off viruses.

Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine would compete with Shingrix, the two-dose shingles vaccine developed by GlaxoSmithKline, Reuters said. Shingrix was approved by FDA in 2017.

Shingles, or herpes zoster, is a viral infection caused by the chickenpox virus. Symptoms include pain and a rash on one side of the body. Shingles most commonly affects older adults and people with weak immune systems.

The CDC says about 1 million people get shingles every year and encourages people to get the Shingrix vaccine if they’re over 50.

“Adults aged 50 years and older as well as vulnerable populations like cancer patients are at an increased risk of shingles,” Ugur Sahin, MD, the CEO and co-founder of BioNTech, said in the news release. “Our goal is to develop an mRNA vaccine with a favorable safety profile and high efficacy, which is at the same time more easily scalable to support global access.”

Pfizer will have the right to commercialize the vaccine on a global basis except for Germany, Turkey, and developing countries where BioNTech will have commercialization rights, the release said. The companies will share gross profits.

Show Sources

Pfizer: “Pfizer and BioNTech Sign New Global Collaboration Agreement to Develop First mRNA-based Shingles Vaccine.”

Reuters: “Pfizer, BioNTech to develop shingles shot, after COVID-19 vaccine success.”

CDC: “Shingles (Herpes Zoster).”

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