FILE PHOTO: The headquarters of biopharmaceutical company BioNTech are seen in Mainz, Germany July 31, 2018. REUTERS/Ralph Orlowski

FRANKFURT (Reuters) – BioNTech struck a collaboration deal with Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical over the German biotech firm’s rights in China to its experimental coronavirus vaccine, aiming to start testing on humans from late April.

Fosun will pay BioNTech up to $135 million in upfront and potential future investment and milestone payments for development achievement, BioNTech said in a statement on Monday, adding that the two companies will share future gross profits from the sale of the vaccine in China.

Fosun will also take a stake of 1.58 million ordinary shares in BioNTech for $50 million.

Once regulators approve the vaccine, Fosun will market it in China, with BioNTech retaining full rights for the rest of the world, the statement said.

BioNTech, said it intends to initiate clinical testing for the compound called BNT162 in Europe, the United States and China in late April.

U.S. companies including Johnson & Johnson, INOVIO Pharmaceuticals and Moderna are racing to develop an immunization against the virus behind the global pandemic.

Signs of a tussle between national governments over medical gear and rights to therapeutics have already started to emerge. The German government is trying to stop the U.S. administration from persuading BioNTech’s unlisted German rival CureVac, which is also seeking a coronavirus vaccine, to move its research to the United States.

BioNTech said was in advanced discussions with its existing partner Pfizer over the development of the vaccine outside China. The U.S. pharma giant earlier this month identified BioNTech as a potential partner for the development of a vaccine.

BioNTech said plans to manufacture the vaccine for the clinical trials along with its partner Polymun at BioNTech’s manufacturing facilities in Europe.

Reporting by Ludwig Burger, editing by Thomas Seythal and Edward Taylor

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