Pfizer Inc. (NYSE: PFE) and BioNTech SE (Nasdaq: BNTX) today announced results from an in vitro study conducted by Pfizer and the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) that shows the antibodies from people who have received the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine effectively neutralize SARS-CoV-2 with a key mutation that is also found in two highly transmissible strains. The results were published on the preprint server bioRxiv and are available here.
Rapidly spreading variants of SARS-CoV-2 have been reported, initially in the United Kingdom and South Africa. These variants have multiple mutations in their spike or S glycoproteins, which are key targets of virus neutralizing antibodies. Though these two rapidly spreading viruses are different, they share the N501Y mutation, which is located in the receptor binding site of the spike protein and results in the virus’s spike protein binding more tightly to its receptor. It has been shown to infect mice more efficiently.(1)
To determine if sera of people who had received the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine could neutralize SARS-CoV-2 with the N501Y mutation, a virus with this substitution was generated in UTMB’s laboratory. The sera of 20 participants from the previously reported Phase 3 trial neutralized the virus with the mutation as well as they neutralized virus without the mutation.
While the virus tested in this experiment did not include the full set of spike mutations found on the rapidly spreading strains in the U.K. or South Africa, neutralization of virus with the N501Y mutation by the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine-elicited human sera is consistent with preserved neutralization of a panel of 15 pseudoviruses bearing spikes with other mutations found in circulating SARS-CoV-2 strains. This indicates that the key N501Y mutation, which is found in the emerging U.K and South Africa variants, does not create resistance to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine induced immune responses.
Pfizer, BioNTech, and UTMB are encouraged by these early, in vitro study findings. Further data are needed to monitor the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine’s effectiveness in preventing COVID-19 caused by new virus variants. If the virus mutates such that an update to the vaccine is required to continue to confer protection against COVID-19, we believe that the flexibility of BioNTech’s proprietary mRNA vaccine platform is well suited to enable an adjustment to the vaccine.
The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine has not been approved or licensed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but has been authorized for emergency use by FDA under an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) to prevent Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) for use in individuals 16 years of age and older. The emergency use of this product is only authorized for the duration of the declaration that circumstances exist justifying the authorization of emergency use of the medical product under Section 564 (b) (1) of the FD&C Act unless the declaration is terminated or authorization revoked sooner. Please see Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) Fact Sheet for Healthcare Providers Administering Vaccine (Vaccination Providers) including Full EUA Prescribing Information available at www.cvdvaccine.com.
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1. Gu H, Chen Q, Yang G, et al. Adaptation of SARS-CoV-2 in BALB/c mice for testing vaccine efficacy. Science 2020;369:1603-7.