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Photo: Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

BioNTech CEO Ugur Sahin told the Financial Times his company could produce a new vaccine to combat mutations of COVID-19 within six weeks using the technology from its current vaccine, which was developed with Pfizer.

Driving the news: Concerns have mounted after the U.K. and World Health Organization said they have identified a new variant of COVID-19 in England that appears to be 70% more transmissible. U.S. officials have said the chances the new strain will make current vaccines less effective are "extremely low."

  • Sahin said it would take two weeks to definitively prove in the laboratory whether the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine would still work as effectively on the new strain.
  • But if not, "the beauty of the messenger mRNA technology is we can directly start to engineer a vaccine that completely mimics this new mutation and we could manufacture a new vaccine within six weeks,” Sahin told the FT.

How it works: The new variant has multiple mutations, but most of the sites that trigger immune response have not mutated, Sahin said.

  • “[This] makes us confident that the T cell response will still work, but we need to do experiments to quantify how well it works," he added.
  • “In principle, what we would do is change the insert [of the vaccine] and replace a virus variant with another variant without touching the platform,” said BioNTech chief medical officer Ozlem Tureci.
  • The speed of the rollout would then be up to regulators.

The state of play: Distribution of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has already been begun in the U.S., U.K., Canada and Israel. The European Commission granted authorization for the vaccine on Monday.

Go deeper ... The coronavirus mutation in the U.K.: What you need to know

Go deeper

21 hours ago - Health

U.S. surpasses 25 million COVID cases

A mass COVID-19 vaccination site at Dodger Stadium on Jan. 22 in Los Angeles, California. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

The U.S has confirmed more than 25 million coronavirus cases, per Johns Hopkins data updated on Sunday.

The big picture: President Biden has said he expects the country's death toll to exceed 500,000 people by next month, as the rate of deaths due to the virus continues to escalate.

Updated 14 hours ago - World

Mexican President López Obrador tests positive for coronavirus

Mexico's President Andrés Manuel López Obrador during a press conference at National Palace in Mexico City, Mexico, on Wednesday. Photo: Ismael Rosas/Eyepix Group/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador announced Sunday evening that he's tested positive for COVID-19.

Driving the news: López Obrador tweeted that he has mild symptoms and is receiving medical treatment. "As always, I am optimistic," he added. "We will all move forward."

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