The headquarters of the German immunotherapy company BioNTech will be in Mainz on April 22, 2020.

Thomas Lohnes | Getty Images

German drug maker BioNTech announced Monday that it plans to develop an mRNA-based vaccine to prevent malaria, a life-threatening disease that affects millions of people around the world every year.

The company, which worked with US drug maker Pfizer to develop the US’s first approved Covid-19 vaccine, intends to begin clinical trials testing the shot by the end of 2022.

The World Health Organization, the European Commission and other organizations were involved in the early planning of the new vaccine, the company said and offered their support in identifying and setting up the necessary infrastructure.

“The response to the pandemic has shown that science and innovation can change people’s lives when all major stakeholders work together to achieve a common goal. We strive to make our innovations available to those who need them most, ”said Dr. Ugur Sahin, CEO of BioNTech in a press release.

“Together with our partners, we will do everything possible to develop a safe and effective malaria vaccine based on mRNA that prevents the disease, reduces mortality and ensures a sustainable solution for the African continent and other regions affected by this disease” he said said.

Malaria is a deadly disease caused by a parasite. According to the World Health Organization, there were an estimated 229 million cases of malaria and at least 409,000 deaths in 2019. Most of the cases have occurred in Africa, and children under the age of 5 are the group most affected by the disease.

Development of the new vaccine comes as the world continues to grapple with the Covid pandemic, which began to spread around the world in early 2020 and has killed more than 4.1 million people since then, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Pfizer and BioNTech quickly developed a highly effective mRNA-based vaccine to fight the virus. It’s used in several countries, including the United States, and helps reduce the number of infections and deaths.

Messenger RNA or mRNA technology has been in development for years, but Pfizer and Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccines mark the first time mRNA has been cleared for use in humans. The mRNA-based Covid vaccine works by getting the body to produce a harmless piece of the virus that triggers an immune response. It is said to be easier to produce than traditional vaccines, which generally use a dead or weakened virus to elicit an immune response.

Due to the success of the mRNA Covid vaccine, other drug manufacturers are trying to develop new vaccines using this technology.

Pfizer, for example, has announced that it will develop an mRNA-based flu vaccine. Kathrin Jansen, director of vaccine research and development at Pfizer, told CNBC in May that the technology could produce “stronger” vaccinations.