German-based biotech firm BioNTech announced on Wednesday that it had observed positive results in ongoing research with US drug giant Pfizer to develop a vaccine against the novel coronavirus.

Preliminary results were released by the companies and are under scientific peer-review for publication.

According to the early data, the vaccine generated antibodies against the virus stronger than the average recovered COVID-19 patient.

“These preliminary data are encouraging, showing that BNT162b1 [vaccine candidate] which exploits RBD SARS-CoV-2 as a target antigen is able to produce neutralizing antibody responses in humans at or above the levels observed in convalescent sera — and that it does so at relatively low dose levels. We look forward to providing further data updates on BNT162b1,” said Ugur Sahin, CEO and co-founder of BioNTech, in the statement.

In a clinical trial performed with pharmaceutical company Pfizer in the US, 24 people aged between 18 and 55 who received two doses of the vaccine had “significantly elevated” antibodies that fight the disease within four weeks of their first injection.

The study had 45 participants in total, some receiving placebos and some receiving higher doses of the vaccine.

“These preliminary data, together with additional preclinical and clinical data being generated, will be used by the two companies to determine a dose level and select among multiple vaccine candidates to seek to progress to a large, global Phase 2b/3 safety and efficacy trial,” said the statement.

“That trial may involve up to 30,000 healthy participants and is anticipated to begin in late July 2020, if regulatory approval to proceed is received. The preliminary clinical data from this ongoing study has been submitted for potential publication in a peer-reviewed journal and is available on an online preprint manuscript server,” it added.

Since originating in China last December, the pandemic has claimed more than 512,000 lives in 188 countries and regions.

Over 10.5 million cases have been reported worldwide, while recoveries have exceeded 5.38 million so far, according to figures compiled by the US’ Johns Hopkins University.

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