RNA-Based COVID-19 Vaccine BNT162b2 Selected for a Pivotal Efficacy Study

Edward E Walsh, Robert Frenck, Ann R Falsey, Nicholas Kitchin, Judith Absalon, Alejandra Gurtman, Stephen Lockhart, Kathleen Neuzil, Mark J Mulligan, Ruth Bailey, Kena A Swanson, Ping Li, Kenneth Koury, Warren Kalina, David Cooper, Camila Fontes-Garfias, Pei-Yong Shi, Özlem Türeci, Kristin R Thompkins, Kirsten E Lyke, Vanessa Raabe, Philip R Dormitzer, Kathrin U Jansen, Uğur Sahin, William C Gruber
medRxiv: the preprint server for health sciences 2020 August 20

BACKGROUND: Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infections and the resulting disease, coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), have spread to millions of people globally. Multiple vaccine candidates are under development, but no vaccine is currently available.

METHODS: Healthy adults 18-55 and 65-85 years of age were randomized in an ongoing, placebo-controlled, observer-blinded dose-escalation study to receive 2 doses at 21-day intervals of placebo or either of 2 lipid nanoparticle-formulated, nucleoside-modified RNA vaccine candidates: BNT162b1, which encodes a secreted trimerized SARS-CoV-2 receptor-binding domain, or BNT162b2, which encodes a prefusion stabilized membrane-anchored SARS-CoV-2 full-length spike. In each of 13 groups of 15 participants, 12 received vaccine and 3 received placebo. Groups were distinguished by vaccine candidate, age of participant, and vaccine dose level. Interim safety and immunogenicity data of BNT162b1 in younger adults have been reported previously from US and German trials. We now present additional safety and immunogenicity data from the US Phase 1 trial that supported selection of the vaccine candidate advanced to a pivotal Phase 2/3 safety and efficacy evaluation.

RESULTS: In both younger and older adults, the 2 vaccine candidates elicited similar dose-dependent SARS-CoV-2-neutralizing geometric mean titers (GMTs), comparable to or higher than the GMT of a panel of SARS-CoV-2 convalescent sera. BNT162b2 was associated with less systemic reactogenicity, particularly in older adults.

CONCLUSION: These results support selection of the BNT162b2 vaccine candidate for Phase 2/3 large-scale safety and efficacy evaluation, currently underway.

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