German biotechnology company BioNTech, which developed the Covid-19 vaccine marketed by Pfizer, has confirmed to "Globes" the announcement by Jerusalem mayor Moshe Lion of its intention to set up a vaccine plant in the city.
BioNTech has signed an agreement with the Jerusalem municipality, the Foreign Trade Administration in the Ministry of the Economy, and the Jerusalem Development Authority. Itzik Ozer, director of business development at the Jerusalem Development Authority says, "The plant will employ between 200 and 300 people, and it will be built within two to three years on 28 dunams of land already allocated for the project."
Cancer vaccination nears clinical trial
The project is still at an early stage, the company says, and it is not yet known how much will be invested in the facility. Investment in projects like this one can amount to tends of millions of dollars.
BioNTech can easily afford to invest sums like this. Its revenue is expected to decline in 2023 in line with the decline in the use of Covid-19 vaccinations, but it has plenty of cash for the next phase: €13.4 billion at the end of the third quarter of 2022. As far as state support is concerned, BioNTech will be entitled to the benefits given to companies setting up biomedical or high-tech factories in Jerusalem, but probably not more than that.
Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, Israel has been looking for someone who will set up a vaccines production facility in Israel that can be rapidly converted to production of emergency vaccines in the event of another pandemic. The arrival in Israel of BioNTech, one of the world’s two leading companies in mRNA vaccines, is an excellent answer.
The factory will be built from scratch, and BioNTech will manufacture a future product there: a therapeutic immunization against cancer. The technology on which the immunization is based is similar to that of the Covid-19 vaccine and is also based on RNA, but the aim of the treatment is different. The company wants to "teach" the vaccine the characteristics of cancerous growths, and then let it attach a growth specifically.
A long way from the market
The product is still a long way from the market. Clinical trials will start only this year. BioNTech CEO Ugur Sahin said a few weeks ago that he expected the product to be in wide commercial use "before 2030". In fact, there is no certainty that it will ever reach the market, but unless there is a severe problem in the safety trials, the plant in Israel is due to start producing the cancer immunization for the company’s clinical trials.
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on March 22, 2023.
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