(Reuters) -Pfizer Inc plans to tap the gene-based technology behind its successful COVID-19 shot to develop new vaccines for other viruses, the Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday.
The drugmaker, which developed the COVID-19 vaccine with German partner BioNTech SE, is ready to pursue the mRNA technology on its own following its experience in the past year, Pfizer Chief Executive Officer Albert Bourla told the paper in an interview.
Pfizer told Reuters the WSJ report was accurate but declined to comment on the new viruses it was looking to target.
The COVID-19 vaccine, based on BioNTech’s mRNA platform, showed over 90% effectiveness in trials and is playing a major role in controlling the pandemic that has killed nearly 3 million people worldwide.
Along with another mRNA-based shot developed Moderna Inc, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has been authorized for emergency use in the United States and Europe – the first application of the technology outside of clinical trials.
Messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines work by inserting synthetic mRNA that instructs cells to make a pathogen’s proteins or protein bits, spurring the immune system into action.
The success of the technology is prompting drug developers to consider its use beyond vaccines, including in cancer treatment, attracting billions of dollars in investment.
“We consider it a great acknowledgement that companies such as our partner Pfizer are getting involved into building their own mRNA vaccine strategy,” a BioNTech spokeswoman told Reuters.
BioNTech’s U.S.-listed shares fell over 3%.
Other companies such as Germany’s CureVac NV, Gilead Sciences, Sanofi and Translate Bio are also developing mRNA-based vaccines and therapeutics.
Pfizer’s current vaccines business, which includes its pneumonia vaccine Prevnar 13, brought in nearly $6.58 billion or about 16% of the drugmaker’s total sales last year.
(Reporting by Manojna Maddipatla in Bengaluru, Douglas Busvine in Berlin; Editing by Anil D’Silva, Maju Samuel and Saumyadeb Chakrabarty)