Pfizer and BioNTech have announced a new collaboration agreement to develop the first mRNA-based vaccine for the prevention of shingles.

This will compete with GlaxoSmithKline’s (GSK) flagship vaccine for the virus.

The collaboration follows the success of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine.

Pfizer and BioNTech hope to build on success of Covid-19 vaccine

Pfizer and BioNTech successfully developed the first approved and most widely used mRNA vaccine to help prevent Covid-19. BioNTech contributed its proprietary mRNA technology, while Pfizer provided its vast antigen research.

The two companies aim to continue to share these assets with the development of the first mRNA-based shingle vaccine.

Pfizer’s chief scientific officer, Mikael Dolsten, has stated that the two companies would continue “our journey of discovery together, by advancing mRNA technology to tackle another health challenge ripe for scientific innovation, supported by our world-class manufacturing network”.

GSK is currently the only company with a shingles vaccine

GSK is the only company that has developed a vaccine against shingles. Shingrix was approved in 2017 and is more than 90% effective in the prevention of shingles.

Demand for the vaccine has, however, significantly outpaced GSK’s production capabilities, which has left room for the entry of a competitor.

Pfizer and BioNTech have the ability to scale up production and outmanoeuvre GSK

GSK has struggled to increase the production of Shingrix in order to meet demand. This is where Pfizer and BioNTech have the ability to outmanoeuvre the company.

Together, Pfizer and BioNTech have faced the challenge of developing a vaccine quickly to meet the demands of a global pandemic.

Prior to the pandemic, the typical development of a vaccine would follow a much longer timescale, but the pandemic created the need for rapid development and a significant ramping up of production capabilities.

mRNA vaccine development requires large quantities of cationic lipid, which has not previously been readily available. Pfizer began mass development of the lipid, rather than sourcing it from external suppliers. This will stand Pfizer and BioNTech in good stead to develop an mRNA shingles vaccine on a mass scale.

As companies that have collaborated and swiftly rolled out a mass vaccination programme on a global scale, Pfizer and BioNTech are well-placed to take the lead. GSK looks set to be left behind when it comes to the shingles vaccine.