The European Investment Bank (EIB) and BioNTech SE concluded a €100 million debt financing agreement to support the development of BNT162, the company’s COVID-19 vaccine programme. The deal will also allow the company to expand its manufacturing capacity in order to supply the vaccine fast worldwide in response to the pandemic. This will be done at the company’s own risk while the clinical studies are ongoing. BioNTech became the first European company to enter clinical testing, having started a clinical trial in Germany in April and a further clinical trial in the United States at the beginning of May. BioNTech’s development programme for BNT162 is one of the broadest development programmes globally, with four vaccine candidates being tested in parallel.
mRNA vaccines consist of genetic material, called messenger RNA, that provides instructions for a human cell to make a target protein, or immunogen, which activates the body’s immune response against the respective virus. The goal of a vaccine is to stimulate the immune system to generate protective, long-lasting antibody and T cell responses against SARS-CoV-2 and prevent subsequent infection upon exposure to the virus. mRNA vaccines are a potent new developmental class of vaccines with potential for high versatility and favourable safety properties. BioNTech was able to bring the first vaccine candidates from concept into clinical testing in less than three months. Safety, speed and flexibility are of the utmost importance in reacting to the current pandemic.
The EIB debt investment will be disbursed in two tranches of €50 million each, following completion of pre-defined milestones. It is backed by the European Fund for Strategic Investments, the financial heart of the Investment Plan for Europe, in which the EIB and the European Commission partner to kick-off investment for EU priority projects. It also benefits from InnovFin Risk Sharing for Corporate Research backed by Horizon 2020, the EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation.
“The only way to end the dramatic situation the world has been facing since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic is to come up with a safe and effective vaccine,” said Ambroise Fayolle, EIB Vice-President in charge of innovation. “In recent years the EIB has become a unique player in supporting highly innovative venture-stage biotech and medtech companies in their research and development of vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics solutions, and we are doing everything we can to step up our support in the current crisis.”
Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, said: “As part of our efforts to counter the spread of the coronavirus, we have embarked decisively on the worldwide race to find an effective and safe vaccine as quickly as possible. For this purpose we recently launched the Coronavirus Global Response initiative, while at the same time we mobilised significant funding through Horizon 2020 for research projects aimed at developing a prophylactic and a therapeutic vaccine. I am very pleased that today, together with the European Investment Bank, we are extending our support to BioNTech, which is yet another concrete step towards our goal of getting a vaccine and ensuring access to it for all.”
“The investments we have made to develop our vaccine platform over the past 12 years have been instrumental in enabling us to develop our COVID-19 vaccine programme rapidly in response to the global health crisis,” said Sierk Poetting, Chief Financial Officer & Chief Operating Officer of BioNTech. “This funding commitment by the EIB will further support the next stage of our COVID-19 scale-up activities as we expand our production capacity to enable global supply.”
BioNTech already entered into a €50 million venture debt agreement under the European Growth Finance Facility for its personalised cancer immunotherapy programme in December 2019. The financing was part of broader EIB activities in the life sciences sector. Some 50 European companies in the life sciences industry have received a total of €1.3 billion, backed by the European Fund for Strategic Investments, over the last four years.