BioNTech Says Coronavirus Vaccine Testing Begins Next Month In 'Project Lightspeed'

Shares of mid-cap immunotherapy company BioNTech SE – ADR BNTX were advancing solidly in premarket trading Monday after the German company said it intends to initiate clinical testing of a coronavirus vaccine. 

Project Lightspeed On

Clinical testing of BNT162 will begin in Europe, the U.S. and China in late April 2020, subject to regulatory clearance, according to BioNTech. 

BNT162 is the company's mRNA candidate to prevent infection by SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. It's being developed in a project codenamed Project Lightspeed.

BioNTech said it is in close contact with regulatory and scientific authorities around the world to make a vaccine available to the public as quickly as possible.

BioNTech's Chinese Partnership

As part of the development program, BioNTech announced a strategic alliance with China's Fosun Pharma to jointly develop its vaccine in China.

Under the agreement, the two companies will jointly develop BNT162 in China and collaborate on clinical trials. The deal gives Fosun the rights to commercialize the vaccine in China.

As part of the agreement, Fosun has agreed to make an equity investment of $50 million for 1.58 million ordinary shares of BioNTech, subject to execution of share subscription documentation and Chinese regulatory approval.

BioNTech said it is also in talks with Pfizer Inc. PFE regarding development of the vaccine outside China.

BioNTech CEO: 'Novel Therapeutics' For Coronavirus Also In The Works 

BioNTech said it plans to manufacture the vaccine for clinical trials along with its partner Polymun at its GMP-certified mRNA facilities in Europe, and is preparing to ramp up production for global supply in collaboration with partners. 

"In addition, we are working on a novel therapeutics approach for those patients who have already been infected — we plan to disclose more on that effort in the coming weeks," CEO Ugur Sahin said in a statement. 

The stock was trading 56% higher to $48.25 at the time of publication in Monday's premarket session. 

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