The development of a vaccine to prevent COVID-19 infection could progress much faster than expected. On Monday, BioNTech SE (BNTX -0.47%) shared more details regarding BNT162, a potential mRNA-based vaccine the German drugmaker has working on in partnership with Pfizer (PFE -0.11%), the University of Pennsylvania, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Project Lightspeed 

On Monday, BioNTech announced a new collaboration with Fosun Pharma to develop BNT162 in China. The company formerly known as Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical Group will bring its clinical development capabilities in China to the rest of the team working on the BNT162 program called Project Lightspeed.

Healthcare professional in a biohazard suit.

Image source: Getty Images.

BioNTech plans to begin clinical testing for BNT162 in late April as part of a global development program that spans the U.S., Germany, and China. BioNTech and Fosun have agreed to work jointly on Project Lightspeed in China, but BioNTech's still in discussions with Pfizer.

Not the first

While BioNTech hammers out a deal with Pfizer, another mRNA-based coronavirus vaccine is already surpassing BNT162 on the development timeline. Also on Monday, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) began dosing patients with a coronavirus candidate co-developed by NIH and Moderna (MRNA -1.56%)

Moderna's vaccine candidate is at least a month ahead of BioNTech's, but both are still a long way from becoming available for the public. Investigators generally like to wait an entire year after injecting patients with either a vaccine or a placebo before counting up who gets sick and who doesn't.