BioNTech (NASDAQ:BNTX) and Pfizer Inc. (NYSE:PFE) have joined other leading coronavirus vaccine developers in opting out of participation in the UK plans of testing experimental vaccines by intentionally infecting trial participants.
BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine will not be used in UK “challenge trials”
According to BioNTech’s spokeswoman, their vaccine candidate will not be part of the challenge trials. The UK is planning to conduct the “challenge trials” and has indicated that it is working with partners to have human challenge trials even though they didn’t offer a specific plan. The controversial challenge trials are expected to commence in January at a clinic in East London.
In the “challenge trial” volunteers will be infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus a month after receiving the vaccine. This is meant to accelerate the approval of the investigational vaccines. The British government will fund the study and could help drug makers test their inoculations without waiting for participants to get the virus naturally. The trial expects to recruit 100-200 volunteers.
More companies don’t want to take part in “challenge trials”
Besides Pfizer and its Germany partner BioNTech refusing to take part in the trial other drugmakers such as Sanofi (NASDAQ:SNY), Moderna Inc. (NASDAQ:MRNA), and AstraZeneca have also indicated that their vaccine candidates will not be used in the program. Inovio Pharmaceutical (NASDAQ:INO) also indicated that it will not take part in the trial, but Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) has stated that it will evaluate the possible benefits of human challenge trials but wouldn’t comment on the plans of the UK government.
The World Health Organisation has said that it is not involved in such studies. Early in May, WHO warned that human challenge trials are risky even if they are limited to healthy, young adults because there is still little known about COVID-19 progression. Currently, there is no specific treatment besides Gilead Sciences’ (NASDAQ:GILD) remdesivir. The US advocacy group behind the campaign, 1Day Sooner, has indicated that it doesn’t confirm the vaccines that Britain will be testing.