Pharma Tech

Pfizer, BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine works in more contagious coronavirus variants

Newly emerged variants of the novel coronavirus have sparked a key question: Will existing COVID-19 vaccines be less effective against them? But scientists have preliminary data showing that may not be the case, at least for Pfizer and BioNTech’s shot.

Researchers from the University of Texas and Pfizer found that, in lab dishes, the vaccine was able to neutralize an engineered version of a variant, which bears an N501Y mutation in its spike protein. The finding was published in bioRxiv and hasn’t been peer-reviewed.

Variants of coronavirus with this mutation were first discovered in the U.K. and South Africa and immediately grabbed global attention because they are more contagious.
Currently available COVID vaccines—including Pfizer and BioNTech’s Comirnaty, or BNT162b2—target the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus behind COVID-19. The N501Y mutation improves the ability of the virus’ spike protein to bind to its receptor on human cells, making it easier to gain entry for infection.

To test whether Comirnaty worked against the mutation, the scientists collected antibodies from 20 vaccinated trial participants and compared their ability to kill off the engineered virus with the N501Y mutation to their ability to neutralize the strain on which Pfizer and BioNTech based Comirnaty.



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