Jun 30, 2022 - Health

Pfizer to begin testing universal coronavirus vaccines

Illustration of a syringe on a mountain top.

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Pfizer and its partner BioNTech plan to start clinical trials of pan-coronavirus vaccines in the second half of the year, BioNTech officials said in an investor presentation on Wednesday.

Driving the news: The company said it wants to provide "durable variant protection," according to Reuters, which first reported the news.

Why it matters: Creating a vaccine that works against a variety of coronaviruses, including COVID-19, represents a holy grail — particularly as new variants threaten to outrun our current arsenal of vaccines.

State of play: Universal vaccines have been studied with limited success for years, but they are gaining renewed investment and research interest.

  • A pan-coronavirus vaccine, being developed at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, was planned for a Phase 1 clinical trial in April, CNN reported.
  • The NIH announced this week the start of a Phase 1 clinical trial to test the safety of a universal flu vaccine candidate, as well as its ability to prompt immune responses.
  • "The scientific community is making progress on this pressing global health priority," said NIAID director Anthony Fauci in a statement.

Be smart: As Axios' Caitlin Owens wrote last year, some experts say making a universal coronavirus vaccine may be easier than making a universal flu vaccine, especially given all that's been learned over the last two years.

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