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The head of German vaccine regulator today said that first covid vaccine approvals could be granted at the end of this year or early next year, according to news agency Reuters. Klaus Cichutek, head of the Paul Ehrlich Institute, said regulators would not be less thorough than usual when evaluating applications for approval for COVID-19 vaccines.

Today, German biotech firm BioNTech, which is developing covid vaccines with Pfizer, said it had secured almost $450 million in government funding to speed up work on its COVID-19 vaccine candidate and expand its production capacity in Germany.

BioNTech and partners Pfizer Inc are among the leading developers of experimental COVID-19 vaccines, based on molecules carrying a genetic code called messenger RNA (mRNA).

Earlier this month, fellow German biotech firm CureVac said it had been awarded 252 million euros in government to support its vaccine candidate.

BioNTech will use the money, which is subject to it reaching certain clinical milestones, to finance part of its COVID-19 vaccine development programme, which it calls BNT162.

“The funding is an important contribution to accelerate the development and expansion of our production capacity for a COVID 19 vaccine in Germany,” said Ugur Sahin, CEO and co-founder of BioNTech.

BioNTech and Pfizer are already testing their most promising vaccine candidate in late-stage trials and have started recruiting patients in the United States, Brazil, Argentina and Europe.

Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE have proposed to the US authorities to expand their Phase 3 COVID-19 vaccine trial to about 44,000 participants while increasing the diversity of the trial population. The initial target figure for the trial of the covid vaccine that both the companies are jointly developing was up to 30,000 participants, which the companies said they expect to reach by next week.

If the study is successful, the companies could submit the vaccine for regulatory approval as early as October, Pfizer said. (With Reuters inputs)

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