BioNTech and Moderna work to adapt Covid vaccine to omicron variant

Messenger RNA technology shortens the timeline for a new shot to only a few months

BioNTech and Moderna are working to adapt their Covid-19 vaccines to address the omicron variant, with the German partner of Pfizer saying it could have a new version ready within 100 days if necessary.

The company has started development in order to move as quickly as possible, BioNTech said on Monday in a statement.

The first steps of developing a new vaccine overlap with the research necessary in order to evaluate whether a new shot will be needed – a process that both it and Moderna began last Thursday as news of the new variant began to spread around the world.


BioNTech, Pfizer and Moderna have been preparing for months for the possibility of needing to tweak their vaccines to deal with a new variant. They’ll be able to move at unprecedented speed: both vaccines use messenger RNA technology, which shortens the timeline for a new shot to only a few months.


Omicron has raised concerns around the world, with countries implementing travel bans to buy time as researchers race to study whether it will evade vaccines and spread more rapidly. Understanding the new strain will probably take several weeks, according to scientists.

BioNTech’s American depositary receipts climbed 5.5 per cent in trading before U.S. exchanges opened, extending a 14 on Friday jump on Friday. Moderna surged 11 per cent.

BioNTech and Moderna have both said it should become clear within weeks whether they’d need to adjust their shots.


It’s standard procedure to begin developing an updated vaccine in parallel with running tests of how the new strain reacts with the existing shot “in order not to waste any time,” BioNTech said. “Lab tests will deliver more information on whether or not adaption of the vaccine will be necessary.”

Vaccinated people should still be protected, depending on how long ago they got their shots, and for now the best advice is to take one of the current Covid vaccines, Moderna chief medical officer Paul Burton said on Sunday on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show. – Bloomberg