By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior Correspondent

Pfizer has announced the signing of a letter of intent with BioNTech SE for the co-development and distribution of a coronavirus vaccine aimed at preventing COVID-19 infection. 

The companies have a head-start on working together, since the partnership builds on a 2018 agreement to jointly develop an mRNA-based influenza vaccine, according to a March 17, 2020 report in Forbes Magazine. 

The agreement covers co-development and co-commercialization aimed at accelerating the development of BioNTech’s potential first-in-class COVID-19 mRNA vaccine program, BNT162, which is expected to enter clinical testing by the end of next month.

The New York-headquartered Pfizer counts as one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies. BioNTech SE is based in Germany and works to individualize cancer treatments and other medicines by pioneering patient-specific immunotherapies. 

“Many companies, including Pfizer, are working to develop antiviral therapies to help infected patients fight this emerging virus as well as new vaccines to prevent infection and halt further spread of this disease,” Pfizer Chairman and CEO Albert Bourla stated in a news release.

“We are committed to working as one team across the industry to harness our scientific expertise, technical skills, and manufacturing capabilities to combat this evolving crisis,” added Bourla.

Pfizer and BioNTech SE have immediately begun work on a new vaccine despite not having finalized the financial, development, and manufacturing aspects of their arrangement. 

The companies have executed a Material Transfer and Collaboration agreement.

“We believe that by pairing Pfizer’s development, regulatory and commercial capabilities with BioNTech’s mRNA vaccine technology and expertise as one of the industry leaders, we are reinforcing our commitment to do everything we can to combat this escalating pandemic, as quickly as possible,” Mikael Dolsten, Pfizer’s Chief Scientific Officer and President, Worldwide Research, Development & Medical, added in a release.