How BioNTech Created a New Delta-Focused COVID vaccine in Just a Few Weeks

The beauty of mRNA vaccines is their ability to be quickly updated. Though the vaccine makers are confident in their original vaccines, as COVID-19 continues to change, the vaccines can change, too.

As the super-contagious delta variant began to spread widely, scientists at BioNTech, the Germany-based company that partnered with Pfizer to make the first approved COVID-19 vaccine, went into the lab to quickly create a new version of the vaccine that specifically targeted the variant.

Because the company uses mRNA technology—a type of vaccine that uses the genetic code for a key protein in the virus to teach the body to make that protein and learn how to fight it off—editing the vaccine involves a relatively simple change in the code. “The vaccine we are using now has the original spike protein, and the only thing we basically need to do is cut out this part and take the spike protein of the delta variant,” says Özlem Türeci, co-founder and chief medical officer of BioNTech.

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