Based on profound scientific know-how, we are ushering in a new era of immunotherapy
For decades, most researchers overlooked messenger RNA (mRNA) because it was considered far too unstable, and no proper solution existed to administer or guide it to the right cells in the body. In early research, it was difficult to achieve the desired levels of immune response and the production of the targeted proteins was too low to make mRNA a suitable candidate for drug development and medical applications. Over more than 30 years, our co-founders defied conventional beliefs and achieved a series of scientific and technological breakthroughs to unlock the full potential of mRNA.
In 2020, we leveraged our mRNA technology to develop a COVID-19 vaccine which became the first mRNA drug approved for human use and the fastest vaccine developed against a new pathogen in the history of medicine.
Relentless scientific rigor driving innovation
With their work, Ugur Sahin and Özlem Türeci solved the basic mRNA-associated problem, namely the issue of low and short-lived protein production. In parallel, BioNTech colleague Katalin Karikó approached the emerging technology from another angle and found that the immunogenicity of mRNA could be mitigated effectively by modifying the nucleotide uridine. Discovery by discovery, improvement by improvement, the company’s scientific teams harnessed the power of mRNA while exploring new and exciting ways to deploy it.
To date, the scientists behind BioNTech have optimized the structural components of mRNA (cap, the poly-A tail and its untranslated regions) to achieve increased intracellular stability of synthetic mRNA and translation, especially in immune cells. The rapid development of our COVID-19 vaccine was only possible because we were able to build on the research, expertise and technology that we have accumulated over decades.
BioNTech was founded on the idea of using mRNA to activate the immune system against a patient’s individual tumors – an approach that we believe can also be tailored to target several kinds of diseases. Through our groundbreaking R&D efforts, we have become a pioneer in many ways:
Developed the first vaccines using non-nucleoside modified RNA for personalized cancer therapies targeting a patient’s unique tumor, with the first patient being dosed in a clinical trial in 2012.
Developed RNA vaccine nanoparticle delivery strategies that target tissue-derived dendritic cells body-wide to increase the immune response. We moved from animal studies to clinical trials in humans, pioneering the first intravenous nanoparticle delivery of mRNA vaccines in humans in 2015.
- Discovered and identified several fundamental approaches to induce a comprehensive immune response, improving the potency of mRNA technology by 1,000-fold.
- Developed a nanoparticle-based delivery strategy for mRNA vaccines targeting antigen-presenting cells body-wide, allowing intravenous administration.
- Advanced an individualized mRNA-based cancer immunotherapy into clinical trials.
- Established a proprietary, easily scalable manufacturing process for mRNA products.
The basis of the first mRNA vaccine
From the very beginning, our co-founders have been focused on building a fully-integrated immunotherapy leader deeply rooted in science.