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Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine Effective Against Highly-Infectious UK Coronavirus Variant, Suggests New Study

By HospiMedica International staff writers
Posted on 21 Jan 2021
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Image: BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine (Photo courtesy of BioNTech)
Image: BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine (Photo courtesy of BioNTech)
Pfizer Inc. (New York, NY, USA) and Biopharmaceutical New Technologies (BioNTech Mainz, Germany) have announced results of a new study which has shown their COVID-19 vaccine elicited antibodies that neutralize the pseudovirus bearing the SARS-CoV-2 UK strain spike protein in cell culture.

The in vitro study provides additional data on the capability of sera from individuals immunized with the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, BNT162b2, to neutralize the SARS-CoV-2 UK strain, also known as B.1.1.7 lineage or VOC 202012/01. The B.1.1.7 lineage is a rapidly spreading variant of SARS-CoV-2 initially detected in the UK that carries a larger than usual number of genetic changes with 10 mutations located in the spike protein. BioNTech and Pfizer had previously published data from an in vitro study that evaluated one of the key mutations (N501Y) in the UK strain, which is also shared by the South African strain. That study showed efficient neutralization of the N501Y mutated spike bearing virus by sera of individuals who had received the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.

The current in-vitro study investigated the full set of UK strain spike mutations. To this aim, a pseudovirus featuring the UK strain spike protein was generated. The pseudovirus recapitulates SARS-CoV-2 virus binding and cell entry. Sera of participants from the previously reported German Phase 1/2 trial inhibited pseudovirus bearing the UK strain SARS-CoV-2 spike in a neutralization range that is regarded as biologically equivalent to the unmutated Wuhan SARS-CoV-2 spike. While the pseudovirus system used is a surrogate for authentic SARS-CoV-2, previous studies have shown excellent concordance between pseudotype neutralization and SARS-CoV-2 neutralization assays. The preserved neutralization of the pseudovirus bearing the UK strain spike by BNT162b2- immune sera makes it likely that COVID-19 caused by the UK virus variant will also be prevented by immunization with BNT162b2. Pfizer and BioNTech have found the early in vitro study findings to be encouraging although further data are needed to monitor their COVID-19 vaccine’s effectiveness in preventing COVID-19 caused by new virus variants.

Related Links:
Pfizer Inc.
Biopharmaceutical New Technologies



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