Pfizer entered a deal with BioNTech potentially worth up to $425 million to develop mRNA-based vaccines for the prevention of influenza, the latter company announced Thursday. Kathrin Jansen, head of Pfizer's vaccine R&D unit, noted "mRNA vaccines offer a novel approach to code for any protein or multiple proteins, and the potential to manufacture higher potency flu vaccines more rapidly and at a lower cost than contemporary flu vaccines."
Under the agreed terms, the drugmakers will jointly conduct R&D activities to advance mRNA-based influenza vaccines, while Pfizer will assume sole responsibility for further development and commercialisation after BioNTech completes a first-in-human study. Pfizer will pay $120 million in upfront, equity and near-term research payments to BioNTech, with the latter eligible to receive an additional $305 million in milestone payments, as well as up to double-digit tiered royalties.
Pfizer's entry into developing mRNA vaccines comes shortly after Sanofi formed a deal  with Translate Bio to develop mRNA vaccines for up to five undisclosed infectious disease pathogens. For related analysis, read ViewPoints: Translate Bio completes its facelift with Sanofi deal .
Meanwhile, Merck & Co. recently expanded  a partnership with Moderna Therapeutics focused on personalised mRNA cancer vaccines, with the companies set to advance mRNA-5671, which targets KRAS, in human studies. Further, Eli Lilly entered  a pact last year with CureVac to develop up to five potential cancer vaccine products based on the latter's mRNA technology.