Picture: AFP/JOHANNES EISELE
Picture: AFP/JOHANNES EISELE

Berlin —Pfizer and BioNTech have secured approval for Germany’s first human clinical trials of a possible coronavirus vaccine, entering a global race to develop a defence against the pandemic.

Regulators gave the green light to test the companies’ proposed vaccine on 200 healthy people aged 18 to 55 years in a first stage, and on additional high-risk candidates in a second stage, according to a statement on Wednesday. Shares of BioNTech rose as much as 63% in Frankfurt.

The companies said they expect to win approval for testing in the US shortly. Pfizer shares rose 3.6% in pre-market trading.

“It’s a good sign that the development of vaccines in Germany is at a stage at which we can begin with the first trials,” health minister Jens Spahn told reporters in Berlin. “At the same time, it’s important to remember that it will take months before a vaccine will be fully tested and can actually be available.”

As worldwide Covid-19 cases top 2.5-million, governments, investors and the public are keenly watching the race to deliver vaccines that could prevent future infections. Dozens of candidates are being developed in nations from the US to China, with at least three in human testing, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

They are from CanSino Biologics and the Beijing Institute of Biotechnology; Inovio Pharmaceuticals; and Moderna; along with the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Human trials of a potential vaccine being developed by Oxford University researchers are set to begin on Thursday, according to the UK government.

BioNTech also expects to test its vaccine programme in China, where it’s collaborating with Fosun Pharma. The companies didn’t say when a vaccine may be available.

With Iain Rogers

Bloomberg

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