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The world took note when the German start-up BioNTech announced its breakthrough in the development of a new type of vaccine to combat COVID-19. After testing tens of thousands of people, BioNTech’s vaccine has been shown to be 95% effective in providing protection for those who would otherwise have been infected. The company was the first to apply for emergency use authorization for a coronavirus vaccine in the United States, and it has announced that it will soon take similar steps in Europe.

Anti-viral vaccines are usually made with devitalized viral materials fabricated outside the body, but BioNTech has pursued a new method of injecting genetically modified RNA into the patient. This prompts the patient’s cells to produce a characteristic protein of the relevant SARS-CoV-2 virus themselves, enabling the body’s immune system to build up an effective response before it encounters the real virus.

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