Comirnaty is the model title for the FDA-cleared Pfizer BioNTech vaccine
The Food and Drug Administration granted full approval for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine on Monday. Millions of Americans are soon facing a confusing, difficult task: How the hell do you pronounce Comirnaty?
This is the brand name for the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine. It is pronounced “co-MER-na-tee”, according to Scott Piergrossi, president of the Brand Institute’s creative department who designed the name.
It’s a little easier to say than BNT162b2, the vaccine’s research name when it was first studied, but not by much.
According to the company, it is “a combination of the terms COVID-19, mRNA, community and immunity”.
Let’s break that down:
- co = COVID-19 (which in turn stands for. COronaWEATHERrus D.isease 2019th, the year it was discovered)
- mirna = mRNA, the snippets of the genetic code that instruct cells to build proteins. In this case, the proteins are the COVID-19 spike protein
- ty = a combination of community and immunity.
“That’s what I love about Comirnaty, it hits so many of the key points that we wanted to convey,” said Piergrossi.
If you don’t like Comirnaty and BNT162b2 doesn’t trip over your tongue, you can always try Tozinameran.
Yes, we didn’t think so.
But in case you want, this “toe-zuh-NAH-mer-an” is pronounced.
That’s the generic name for Comirnaty.Like all pharmaceutical generic names monitored by the World Health Organization, it had to be made according to strict nomenclature rules.
Generic or vaccine names have two parts. The first part is something that the pharmaceutical company is allowed to invent, in this case “Tozina”.
“It has to be a ‘blank canvas’,” said Piergrossi. “WHO requires the prefix to be meaningless. It cannot be a marketing tool.”
The suffix “meran” is used for mRNA vaccines, as is “caine” for local anesthetics and “ast” for anti-asthma drugs.
The Brand Institute began work on names for the vaccine in April 2020 when its German office contacted BioNTech based there. (BioNTech is pronounced Bye-ON-tech, not Bye-oh-N-tech.)
Finding pharmaceutical names takes a lot of money and database research, Piergrossi said.
“We are battling hundreds of thousands of existing names, and each new brand name must be different from everything else in these databases,” he said.
There are many considerations including checking for name similarities, intellectual property, and Internet domain availability
When a list of finalists is drawn up, a cultural review will be carried out.
“We do a language check in over 40 languages to make sure nothing is offensive or misleading,” said Piergrossi. “It’s a disaster check to make sure you don’t have any embarrassing situations.”
Comirnaty was announced in December when the European Commission granted conditional marketing authorization for the vaccine, but the FDA will not allow the use of trade names for drugs until they are fully approved.
More COVID-19 vaccines are in the regulatory pipeline, so more tongue twisters are coming.
The brand name of the Moderna vaccine is said to beSpikevax, after Piergrossi. The AstraZeneca vaccine is Vaxzervia.
“Pharmaceutical names have a certain quirky character,” said Piergrossi.
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